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When cheering for colleague’s success is hard, and what to do

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Nancy Nzalambi | February 14th 2021

A coworker gets selected for a training programme that you had hopes of attending. You feel happy for them because, after all, it will be for the good of the entire organisation.

Expressing happiness for the success of others demonstrates high level of moral principles. It would be impolite, even sinful, to express any form of disappointment. But sometimes, cheering for our coworkers is not as easy as it sounds.

In some of these events, deep down, you may feel negative emotions; resentment, envy, disappointment, anxiety. You may wonder why you did not make the cut.

Ask yourself how your colleague’s success will impact your day-to-day life at work, or what you need to do better to get such recognition. Is it just a twinge of healthy competition or are your struggling with some personal insecurities?

Unfair advantage

When your co-worker’s success is due to some unfair advantage handed to them by the management, it shows that the playing field was uneven. You are justified in expressing disappointment. Malicious managers may intentionally hand opportunities to few individuals to give them a head start on certain assignments.

Acknowledge mixed feelings; they also help you to recognise that you are human and it is hard for you to root for undeserved recognition.

Depending on the seriousness of the matter, conscious favouritism can be handled constructively by involving senior management or the human resources department.

On the other hand, use your coworker’s success as inspiration, especially if they accomplished their tasks on a level playing field. There is no harm in being gracious enough to jump up and down with joy for your coworker’s success.

What aren’t you doing right?

If you feel like you are using too much effort to get where your peers are and still not accomplishing much, you are not alone.

Everyone experiences such feelings from time to time. What you shouldn’t allow is drowning in self-pity to a point that you feel inferior.

We all know that relative who dreamt of a particular career and went for it from an early age.

By now, they seem to be happy and exactly where they wanted to be. That does not mean that you are failing miserably in your life.

Do not allow yourself to get stuck in a life of comparison. You will miss out on the successes of what you are doing right.

Deal with it

Yes, there is evidence of your colleague’s accomplishments all over the place, thanks to the digital communication platforms. You cannot really avoid them. The hype may make you feel as though you are falling behind your peers.

It is never a pleasant feeling to lag behind others. Could the comparison trigger insecurity?

Executive coach Nihar Chhaya notes: “Your colleague’s success is not your failure.” If healthy competition prompts isolation and negative emotion, search within yourself to recognise your triggers.

Enjoy your gains

We all have our own expectations about our career paths. We put timelines for accomplishing certain goals. However, when our expectations match the need to outshine others, we are cultivating perpetual insecurity. You find yourself wanting what they have, forgetting what you should show gratitude for.

Driving the need to land where others are may make you feel trapped when you actually get there and it turns out that “it’s not all that.” Do not change your career mainly due to what others are doing. A career change should be guided by your own values and their influence in providing opportunities for self-advancement.

Build character

You may think it is shameful that your coworker outdid your efforts. Delays, setbacks are part of the career journey. At some point, you will definitely feel less fruitful. There is no benefit in burying yourself in shame.

Use a colleague’s success to build character. Learn your fears, what makes you tick, what details your efforts and genuinely celebrate with those celebrating. High tides float all ships. It builds self-awareness and keeps negative emotions from taking over your mindset.

Unlearn your idea if a perfect career

Maybe you had specific goals at work. You wanted to land that money making deal but health issues happened unexpectedly and your peers had to take over. If they manage to bring the money home, shouldn’t you be happy? Would you rather they failed instead?

Andy Stanley wrote: “Jealous leaders measure their success by the failure of others.” If you find yourself envious of such success then you need to adjust your mindset. If due to unforeseen circumstances, which you had totally no control over, you did not get to participate with the winning team, it is still okay.

Benchmarking your career with timelines is good, but only the order that works best for you even when you are out of your timelines is what you should focus on.

There is no need to panic when the unexpected happens. Take charge and steer your career back to life.

The Japanese say: “You have three faces. The first face, you show the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.” Live your life showing your true self that there is enough success in the world for all of us.

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