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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.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

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

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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