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How To Avoid Comparing At Work

How To Avoid Comparing At Work

We all do it – we snoop at the lives of celebrities, at the holidays of our friends, at the incomes at our loved ones,’ and to be honest, a lot of the time the green-eyed monster is at play, ensuring we feel especially negative about our own behavior and situation. This particularly strikes in the workplace where we often struggle to avoid comparing our work skills, abilities and goals, as well as how far we’ve come in comparison to our co-workers, often leading to a mental game of one-up-manship that satisfies no one.

So, if you’re stuck in this vicious cycle of jealousy, comparison and negativity, check out seven of our best tips for to how to avoid comparing at work, and begin to break the pattern of negative comparison with our advice for the workplace.

1. Be clear about what you want.

We go to work to earn money to live, but we also go to work to help fulfill a vision of what we want in our head. Our specific goals, dreams and aims. All of these can be extremely useful in the fight to avoid comparing at work. Your work and your journey are all that you should focus on, not if those dreams stack up compared to your co-workers.

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Keep your vision clear about what you want out of work and out of life. Make a vision board; write it all down; keep a journal; or whatever you need to keep moving forward. Make sure you break things down into manageable areas so you can actively work towards them, but always keep your eyes on the work horizon so you can keep moving forward and avoid comparing at work. As the indomitable Eric Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” once stated, ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.’ A better sentiment can’t be formed, really.

2. Be humble and grateful.

You can never go wrong with being grateful and humble for your life. It’s always a sure-fire to help you avoid comparing at work. No one likes a bragger or a show-off at work and let’s be honest in this economy, it’s pretty fantastic to have a job at all, given the still-large unemployment rates around the world following the recent economic downturn and recession. Being humble and grateful is a solid way towards avoiding comparing at work.

Be thankful for the job you have, even if it’s one you don’t particularly want at the moment, and let that shine by working hard and focusing. You can make something positive out of almost every situation, and staying humble, staying ambitious and staying grateful for all you have right now, is one of the most effective ways in avoiding and resenting your co-workers.

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3. Become friends with co-workers.

There’s an old saying about keeping friends close and enemies closer; but I prefer the one that talks about trying to be friends with everyone. After all, how can you compare and compete with someone you consider a friend? Friendly, helpful, supportive rivalry is one thing, but actively electing to put you and your co-workers at odds with each other is not only stupid, it’s destructive and detrimental to your career.

Strike up conversations with co-workers, talk and discuss work – but not only work – and just generally be a fun and positive person to be around. Why? If you want to avoid comparing yourself to those around you, building up these positive relationships makes it significantly more likely that you’ll be happy for them when they succeed and you’ll have a supportive, warm network around you for those achievements and those failures. Plus, helping and supporting each other is what we should all be doing anyway, right? Making more friends rarely has a downside, so go ahead and head for the water cooler with your cubicle mate.

4. Have a great ‘outside’ life.

One of the most vital things you can do to avoid comparing at work, is to have a full and varied life outside of the office. Jobs can too often dominate our waking thoughts and processes and extend into all aspects of our lives. The resolution to all this is to make sure that when you step out of those doors, you’ve got a vibrant and exciting life waiting for you.

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I’m not suggesting everyone goes out dancing and skydiving every night – I’m a classic introvert so that sounds exhausting to me – but have plans that make you excited, happy and fulfill you somehow. Take an art class, go on dates, have a pajamas-and-Netflix party with your best friends, do whatever you like but ensure that you’re doing it for you and you’ll avoid comparing at work all that much more.

5. Take on side projects.

Known as the ‘side hustle,’ taking on extra, side projects can be both fulfilling and a fantastic way to avoid comparing at work. You and your co-workers might be closer than you are to your actual neighbours at times, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same paths together and achieve the same milestones. Point in fact, you can always look to new side projects and extra work and responsibilities to help avoid comparing at work.

If you see a project or an avenue at work you’re interested in, then go ahead and sign up for some fun extra duties that will not only enhance your resume, but also ensure that you get to do interesting stuff outside of your assigned duties. You might even build up a bit of a speciality which is sure to set you apart from your co-workers and help stop you comparing at work. After all, we all have our different paths and journeys.

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6. Appreciate your unique standing.

You are completely unique in the workplace, even if you’re one of a hundred people doing your job. To avoid comparing at work, remember that no one has your unique blend of experiences, histories, and personal position. It might seem like you’re just one little cog in the workforce machine, but let’s face it, the chances of someone having the same experiences, opinions, views and judgement as you is not only unlikely, it’s nearly impossible.

To stop avoid comparing at work, acknowledge your position in the workplace and what you can uniquely bring to your job. You have unique abilities that cannot be replicated and rather than comparing yourself to your co-worker who might excel in one area that you aren’t so good at (spreadsheets, emails, interpersonal skills and so forth), focus on what you can bring to the role and what you can do to bring that to the front of your job performance.

7. Keep working on those work goals.

Keep working, working, working, on yourself. We all have work goals – or at least we should – and working towards them alongside the course of our job is something we should always aspire, something that should always take the place of comparing yourself at work. Just as every person is different, the goals we set ourselves are different. Our aims differ, but they are always our own. We all have our Mount Everest to climb, whether or not the tracks are similar to our co-workers.

Make a big list of the goals you want to achieve and the ones you already have done – put them in straight lines, in shaded bubbles, in brightly-colored Post-Its where you can see them. Cross off the ones you’ve already achieved and put them all somewhere you see everyday like a planner or a diary, so you can keep working towards them, slowly but surely, and always with a view to looking ahead to the future.

Remember that the key to avoid comparing at work is simply to stop comparing your journeys and focus on your goals and your career without thinking negatively about others’ paths.

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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