Comparing Yourself to Others? Keep It All in Perspective

Women RivalsHere’s a reason besides nosiness to know what other people are earning: So you can negotiate compensation with confidence. On the other hand, constantly comparing your accomplishments to those of others has become an epidemic that leads to unhappiness, paranoia and a condition that Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, calls reverse Schadenfreude — being pained by other people’s success.

Certainly, it’s good to know your colleagues’ accomplishments, but they shouldn’t define their happiness. When it comes to career satisfaction, to each his own should be your mantra. Some people are happy earning a reasonable salary for a job they like, while others feel compelled to strive for top dollar.

DeLong says the tendency to define one’s success through external comparisons is out of control because professional networking sites invite evaluations, corporate downsizing has created a lack of security, and increased competition and performance pressure fosters an us-versus-them mentality.

Some people are so competitive they fret when others receive praise or are tapped to attend a conference. Instead they should use an internal barometer to gauge their success, DeLong says. The fear of falling behind can actually be counter-productive, because it may prevent you from taking on career-enhancing — but risky — assignments.

So how do you break the habit of chronically comparing? First, create a list of personal goals and check them off when you succeed. When you feel the need to compare, or worry that you’re falling behind your peers, refer to the list and use it as a reality check. Surround yourself with people who recognize your achievements, and avoid socializing with voracious comparers.

Focus on things you can control and don’t worry about the rest. Maybe you’ll never be the boss’s favorite, and maybe you won’t become a CIO, but truth be told attending your kid’s soccer game might be more satisfying.

Source: Fortune/CNN Money

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June 30, 2011 at 9:51 am, Mike said:

Here’s a different perspective:

When the boss constantly compares you to others, and never positively. It’s one thing to not be the favorite; it’s completely different to have a target on your back.

I never compared myself to others, it was my boss who never missed an opportunity to marginalize, and criticize; even to the point of producing a chart of employees and what he believed to be their skills. For some reason I always had the shortest list but when push came to shove it was I, because my world was broader and deeper than MicroSoft and “programming”, who accomplished that which others could not.

A word of advice to readers: if your boss does not like you, find out why and if possible, correct his misconception; or leave for greener pastures before you get the push.

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