What Should A Manager Do When Your Peers Are Doing Better Than You?

Not being first can be a difficult thing to deal with
Not being first can be a difficult thing to deal with
Image Credit: U.S. Army

So here’s something that can be difficult for us to deal with: what do you do when you are not #1? At work, I’m hoping, we all try hard to use our manager skills and do our best. However, there will be times that the people that we are working with, our peers, just simply outperform us. When this happens and when we become aware of it, what is a manager to do? Let us assume that giving up and going home is not an option. We’d like to hang on to our job, what should we do in this type of situation?

Discovering That You Are Not Number One

So how can this feeling of inadequacy start? Let’s agree that there are a number of different ways that it can begin; however, the most common one is when there is an annual performance review at work. You go in and have the normal talk with your boss. Where things start to go off the rails is what happens afterwords. Your peers may start to boast and tell stories about how much they have been able to accomplish. This may be a natural thing for them to do, but it can have a big impact on how you view your accomplishments. At the same time you may start to worry about how your management is going to view your work performance vs your peers. There is no manager training on how to deal with situations like this.

Since you are going to feel that you were not able to accomplish as much as your peers it is only natural that you will start feel discouraged. This can be a nasty circular staircase and once you start to go down it, it can be difficult to stop because as you hear more and more stories about other people’s successes you’ll start to feel worse and worse. As you start to feel down on yourself, other things can start to occur. One of these things is that you may lose any motivation that you have to improve your work performance. This can come as a bit of a surprise. I think that most of us believe that when we find ourselves not in first place, this will motivate us to try harder. It turns out that this is not always the case.

The good news for us is that this feeling of not being willing to try harder is actually a fairly typical response to feelings of discouragement. What is happening in cases like this is that we are comparing ourselves to others. We do this all the time. We look at people and decide that they are richer than us, thinner than us, and more popular than we are. Examples of this behavior have been captured by researchers. In college courses, students were asked to grade the work of other students in the class. This allowed both the high performing and the low performing students to see how they were measuring up to their peers. The result of this study was that the low performing students who saw how much better their peers were doing were 16% more likely to drop the class.

How To Recover When Your Peers Outperform You

When we find ourselves in a situation like this, the way that we are going to be able to pull ourselves out is by changing our behavior. Sadly, there is no magic cure where someone will come along and tell us that it’s all right and that we shouldn’t be down on ourselves. Instead, it’s going to be up to us to find the way to climb out of the hole of discouragement that we have created for ourselves. The first thing that we are going to want to do is to find ways to reduce our exposure to personal comparisons.

What this means for us is that you are going to want to take actions so that you don’t allow yourself to feel as though you are inferior. Your goal is to find ways that you can stay motivated. In order to stop the constant flow of information that you are receiving that is telling you that you are not good enough, you may have to change who you are spending your time with. Taking the time to surround yourself with a collection of a new mix of friends and colleagues can allow you to distance yourself from the boasting that has lead to your feeling of discouragement.

The end result of making these changes is that you’ll find that you are spending more time with your new friends outside of work doing team building. This will allow you to fill your thoughts with fewer work-related issues and will allow you to distance yourself from the thoughts that were causing you to become discouraged. When you are in the office, you are going to want to change who you choose to spend time with. You’ll want to find those colleagues who perform at your level. Even better would be to spend time hanging our with colleagues who perform worse than you do. What you are ultimately gong to want to do is to change the workplace conversations that you allow yourself to become involved in to not be the competitive ones that initially allowed you to become discouraged.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to be the most effective manager, we need to be able to believe that we are doing the best job possible. However, there will be times when we start to hear our coworkers bragging about what they have been able to accomplish at work. Hearing this can cause us to start to become discouraged and believe that we’re not going to be able to live up to their standards. When this starts to happen, we need to take action to pull ourselves out of the slump that we find ourselves in.

This feeling of discouragement all starts because of the people that you work with. At some point in time when your work performance has been evaluated, you may start to hear your coworkers bragging about all of the things that they have been able to accomplish. As they do this, you may start to feel discouraged about your limited accomplishments. A result of this is that you may lose motivation to do better at work. The good news is that this is a very natural feeling and we are always comparing ourselves to others. In order to start to fix things we are going to want to limit our exposure to those people who are bringing us down. Change who you are spending your time with and get a new mix of people to hang out with. Spend more time with them outside of work. You may also want to hang out with people who perform at your level or lower.

No, we can’t always be the top performer at work. However, in those circumstances in which we discover that we are not number one, we need to be able to deal with the discouragement that we will feel. It turns out that by making changes in who we choose to spend time with we’ll be able to turn things around for ourselves. The next time that you find yourself feeling discouraged, make some changes and position yourself for future success!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you start to feel discouraged at work, should you drop all of the people that you are currently associating with?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ah, a new job! When we take a new job we’re doing so because a lot of promises have been made to us. We may have been told that we’ll have a fancy title and they’ve promised us a lot of pay. We’ve been told that we’re being placed in a position of power and that we’ll be able to use our manager skills to have a big influence on the direction of the company. However, when we show up, we discover that what we were told does not match reality. Should we stay or should we go?