DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF (TO CO-WORKERS) (EP.32)
By Justin Kerr
Have you ever stopped to think how absurd it is that you are judging your accomplishments and self-worth vs. a random (tiny) selection of people who happen to work in the same building as you do? There are millions - no billions - of people on earth, so get outside, zoom out, and stop worrying about whether you get promoted in August or February.
JUSTIN: Cause you are beautiful, no matter what they say. Life can't get you down.
JUSTIN: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Mr. Corpo podcast. And in fact, this will be the last podcast of Season 3 of the Mr. Corpo podcast show. The reason for that is, we're gonna take a few weeks off, because I am negotiating a new book deal with a major book publisher. That's fantastic. I'm also finishing up the edits on How To Be A Boss. And that will be coming out in October. Very excited about that. And thirdly, I'm hiring an assistant. And I want to take a little time to get them into ship shape and get the new, new out there in the world.
So for that reason, this will be the last episode of Season 3. Stay tuned, we'll get some new and exciting things coming at you. But in the meantime, let's get on to today's episode. The topic for today is why you should never, ever, no matter what, compare yourself to other people. Now, whether we're talking about work or life, existing in a constant comparison of yourself versus other people is a losing battle, and surefire way to go through life unhappy, unsatisfied, and basically miserable. Now, let's get to work.
JUSTIN: If you work in an office, it is far too easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to the people around you. After all, you see them every day. They do similar jobs to what you do. So it's natural that in a society, in an organization which values measurements, achievements as proof of the individual's worth, it's natural that we want to know if we're winning. It's natural that we want to know, am I winning?
Now, let me zoom us out for a minute. Do you realize how ridiculous it is that you're judging yourself, your self-worth, your level of achievement, your success in both life and work, versus the 10, 20, or 200 people you randomly happen to work with in the same building? 200 people out of billions of people! There are literally billions of people on earth, and you're judging yourself versus 10 of them. Or five of them. Or the three people on your team. It's ridiculous! It's silly. It's wrong. Zoom out.
Forget about the 10 people immediately around you on your team, and think about the millions of people in your state. Think about the hundreds of millions of people in the United States, or whatever country you happen to live in. Think of all the things that you have to be grateful for, exactly where you are today. You see, the problem with comparing yourself to other people is that we have a tendency to focus on what we don't have and what we need to do to get more. And rather than being able to be happy or enjoy the moment or grateful for what we have, we're worried about what we don't have.
Alright, so that's the general framework of what it means to compare yourself in this false judgement of the immediate people that happen to be around you as friends or co-workers. That's a false premise to judge yourself against. So don't compare yourself just to this small group. But let me take this into the work zone.
Now, the place where this shows up the most often is when it comes to promotions. And trust me, I used to do this, too. You pick the worst-performing person one level higher than you, and then you go to your boss and you point at that person and you say, "I'm better than they are, so I should get promoted." In this case, you're identifying the worst performer as the easiest shortcut to justifying, in your own mind, why you should get promoted. But the truth is, this is a false measuring stick. Instead of looking at the worst, why don't you look at the best, and challenge yourself to reach for new heights?
Another way that this comparison game rears its ugly head is when someone, maybe a peer, gets a promotion and you don't. It can sometimes feel like one of the great injustices of the world. It can also make you feel like you aren't good at your job, or you wonder, "Why are they better?" Or, "what's wrong?" When you're in this situation, it's hard to see the forest for the trees. The truth is, it doesn't matter if you get promoted in August or January. Sure, it may feel like, in the moment, that was a make-or-break promotion. But the truth is, very quickly, and with the smallest of perspective, you realize it doesn't matter at all. And what's more, no one else cares about it.
05:00 With the benefit of hindsight, I can say with 100 percent confidence, no interviewer has ever asked me why I got promoted in February instead of November. Because in the big scheme of things, it doesn't matter. I also want to reassure you that it all evens out in the end. So if someone you hate, someone you don't like, someone you didn't think deserved a promotion, if they got promoted faster than you did, don't sweat it. Over the next couple years, and certainly over the lifetime of a career, you too will be the beneficiary of a too-early promotion or a quick promotion.
Sometimes it's circumstance, sometimes it's luck. Everyone's gonna get their lucky break. And if yours didn't happen today, don't worry about it. That just means you're saving it up for later, when there's more money and bigger titles. So, better to get your lucky break later, rather than early.
You know, my friend Nick Lewis always talks about the fact that he peaked as a fourth grader. He was the biggest, the strongest, the smartest, the funniest kid in fourth grade. But guess what? Everything since then has been downhill. Now he's the shortest, he's still kind of funny, he's still kind of smart. But he looks back and says, "My great moment was in fourth grade." So don't worry if you didn't get your promotion when you wanted. That means you still have room to peak. You're not peaking, and it's all gonna go downhill.
Now, instead of wasting energy comparing yourself or the promotion schedule of other people in your office, pay more attention to yourself. What's important to you? What do you want to accomplish? When do you want to accomplish it? How? Why do you want to accomplish it? Don't get distracted by measuring your self-worth or your level of accomplishment by comparing yourself to other people around you, because who cares? There's an entire world out there, and everyone's on their own journey with their own issues, their own problems, their own hangups. The more you obsess and compare yourself to others, the more energy you are wasting that could otherwise be spent on good things. So next time, when you find yourself tempted to justify your promotion or compare yourself to a weak performer, or you get discouraged because someone else got promoted 10 weeks before you did, take a deep breath, go outside, count your blessings, and get to work.
Alright, now I want to move things over to the bonus section. We haven't been in the bonus section in a little while. Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section, I love you! Bonus section.
Now, I was just thinking of this as we were going through the episode today. One of the things we all like to do in life is get promoted early. And I wanted to recommend a very unexpected, a very easy way to put points on the board toward your next promotion. And my recommendation is: set up a volunteer event. It's as simple as that. Figure out: what do you care about? Do you want to volunteer on the recess, do you want to volunteer at a food bank? Do you want to clean up a beach? Do you want to invite a nonprofit to come speak at your company? Whatever it is, figure out a cause that you care about, and schedule the one event.
It doesn't mean you have to sign up for the rest of your life. It doesn't mean you have to get the whole team to commit to a year's purpose. Just go find a single event to rally everyone around. Build it around a lunchtime. Go to your boss, say, "Hey, I'd love to build a team-building event. We go offsite, it'd take two hours, it's all taken care of. I'll make it easy for everyone." Of course your boss is gonna say yes. And guess what? It puts you in a position where you're showing leadership, you're showing organization. You're making everyone feel good about themselves. You're getting a little bit of perspective. We talked about that in today's podcast.
And everyone's gonna say, "Hey, you know what? That Justin, he's thinking beyond himself, he's not always worried about what's going on at work, he got me out of the office." And guess what? You're gonna all of a sudden break up the monotony of work. You get three hours outside the office, one week this month. That's awesome.
Now, hopefully that leads to people wanting to volunteer more, giving you a better perspective, keeping you from comparing yourself to other people. Because all of a sudden, you realize how much you have to be grateful for, that you don't have to worry about the exact day or month of your promotion. But my point is, put some points on the board, figure out a volunteer event, a couple hours, a one-time event, and go do it. I promise, it will contribute to your reputation, and your ability to get promoted sooner than you would have otherwise.
Alright, that's it for the bonus section. Now, before we wrap up today's episode, we did have one question from a listener. Rob, do you want to talk about that?
ROB: The hotline. They sent a text to it. And that was: 10:00 there's a woman, a VP at my work, who I frequently have to contact to get information from, or share information with. I get the vibe she doesn't really like me. Not sure why. I can only imagine it's because I'm new. She rarely responds to my emails, except at times, to just say, "Thanks." And cc another person high up, in some attempt to hint, I should always cc them? Although I don't necessarily agree. It just feels very condescending and makes my job harder.
JUSTIN: Very interesting question. I like this. I think this is a common experience for a lot of people. And I'm gonna pick up on a couple points. I think one, it's gonna depend on: how new are you? Have you taken the time to build the relationship? And maybe, if this person's an EVP, they're gonna be pretty powerful, time's gonna be difficult to get with them. But you've got to make a priority, next time you see them in person, to say, "Hey, I'm wondering if I can steal 10 minutes of your time, just to touch base and talk about how we work together." It's harmless. Anyone has 10 minutes.
And you're even admitting, by using a word like "steal your time," you're admitting that you know their time is valuable. And you just want to borrow a little bit of it. Or, it would do you a favor if you could take some of their time. So I recommend, there's no way you're gonna fix any of the relationship stuff through electronic communication. You gotta get right to the person. You gotta get this meeting. It doesn't even have to be a meeting. You can say, "Can I buy you a coffee? Can I steal five minutes of your time?" Just get your foot in the door. Even five minutes is enough to get what you need out of this.
And the point is, all you want to do when you sit down with them, you say, "Hey, I've been here for a little while. Hey, I've noticed that sometimes in our communication, it seems like I may not be getting the information to you in the way that you might like. Or, my perception is that I might have a better way of communicating. Or, you know what, I have things every week that I need to get from you. What's the best way that you like to receive information?" Ask it as a question. So be right up front, tell them it feels like you haven't connected. Or ask the question of, how do they like to be connected? And let them tell you.
Because even by bringing the topic up to them, you've now made them self-aware that you're on the radar, you're paying attention to how they interact. And now you're not just a name in their inbox, or a new person who they don't know who it is, and they're annoying. All of a sudden there's a face to the name. And you've addressed how they communicate. You can also say, it depends on what bothers you. If what bothers you is, you don't hear a response, you should feel free today that to them. And say, "You know, I just want to check with you. Sometimes I don't always get a response. Does that mean you approve everything, or should I follow up to try and make sure that we're on the same page?"
It's really about asking questions, letting them know how you like to work, and then getting the advice back and forth. It's really simple, it's not accusatory, you're not saying they did anything wrong. But you're letting them know that they value your opinion. You want to make this relationship work. And then the other thing I'd say is, while you're together, give them a way of getting to know you. Share about your family. Share about a hobby. Share what you did in your past job. Become more than a number to them. An EVP level probably has 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 people below them. And they don't even know everyone's name. And especially if you're new, unless you're a rock star or someone's made the introduction, or your boss has made a good introduction, then you're just one of many.
And by the way, another thing to think about is: if you -- I can't remember in the question if they reported directly to the EVP or not -- but if you don't report directly to the EVP, you can also talk to your boss in your weekly touch-base, and say, "Hey, I seem to be struggling with this. Do you think you could make an introduction for me, or do you think you could get me a chance to get time with them?"
Now, you don't have to make it all political and complicated. But looping your boss in, if they have a great relationship with the EVP, maybe there's an easy way for them to say, "Hey, here's what you need to do." Or, it gets it on the radar. So don't let this go a long time. Don't become a victim and just wait six months and never have a meaningful interaction with the EVP. You've gotta get out in front of this. You've got to fix it. You can ask other people how they work, watch what other people do. And ultimately, hopefully when this EVP sees you work, and sees the good work that you do, it'll get her attention. And in that case, she'll all of a sudden want to answer your emails.
The last thing I'm gonna say on this is, have you read my book? Do you write good emails? My book is called How To Write An Email. There's a certain way to write an email, especially writing up the ladder, and the chain of command. There's a certain way you need to write the email so that it's easy, succinct, bullet points, easy to reply to. Cause I promise you, at the EVP level, they're running from meeting to meeting. And I always like to say this, but they have 99 problems and you aren't one of them. So you need to figure out a way to get on their radar. Let them know that this is important, if not critical, that they reply. And then write a good email. Okay? You can go back, listen to the podcast episodes. You can buy the book. Whatever it takes, there's a way to solve this.
15:13 So thank you very much for your question. I don't know if we got a name on that. No, anonymous. Okay. But give us a shoutout. Let us know how it goes. Hopefully these are some helpful hints. Without you here, I can't ask more question. So we'll leave it there. Rob, thanks for reading the questions. Thanks for producing Season 3. Thanks for recording, editing, mixing, everything -- all the good stuff for Season 3. Everyone that doesn't know, Rob is actually a musician, and he is responsible for writing and producing and recording the theme music of Mr. Corpo, which came from his band called Beowulf.
And I think that's all the good stuff. Sound good? Of course, reach out to me at email@example.com. Keep your questions coming. Visit mrcorpo.com, or hit me on Twitter at mr_corpo if you have any questions. I think that's all the big stuff. Let's get to work.