Should I be the way I don't like in life to succeed, too?
June 17, 2016 2:43 AM   Subscribe

I recently see someone that I have worked with is going to start a job at where I could only imagine in dreams. I don't envy about how rich and beautiful people are doing but I feel very upset about life all of a sudden, how sad... Do I really envy him? Yes and no, I guess. To me, he hasn't done anything bad to me so I have no reason to dislike him, I just know that this person has not been a nice colleague to work with based on his work ethic and quality. There are more people deserve that opportunity but he got selected, I really don't know why.

I have been climbing in life for dreams while trying to survive and I see him like....flying. I accept that I am short in talent and luck but I just can't think pass this. I even wonder if I should be the way he is, the way I don't like to be.

What should I "look" at this and move on?
posted by lanhan to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There are more people deserve that opportunity but he got selected, I really don't know why.

That is the thing: you really don't know why. You don't know his CV. You don't know the internal job selection process. You don't know the team/group within which he is going to be working. You don't know the actual details of the job. You don't know anything.

It is easy to look at things from the outside and go "why?!" but I assure you there are always reasons.
posted by kariebookish at 3:42 AM on June 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

As you say, don't know why he got the job. People do not employ people solely because they think they are lazy bastards, so he has got this job despite those traits, not due to having them.

Maybe he hides it well in interviews. Maybe he spent the time he should have spent working on getting extra qualifications. Maybe he's friends with one of the bosses. Maybe nobody else applied. You don't know. There's certainly no career benefit to you in taking on his negative character traits. Then you just have your existing "talent and luck" plus a poor reputation/terrible references.

I have experienced the phenomenon of colleagues who slacked off from work do better than those who were working until 9pm every night. The slackers were off passing postgraduate exams, getting publications and taking part in mentoring schemes that made their CVs substantially better than the people stuck on the ward doing menial scutwork until midnight.

The people doing scutwork (and I include myself in that category) were putting in lots of effort for the organisation, but were not putting any effort into achieving the requirements for promotion (indeed often were not even aware of what these requirements were), and so were not doing themselves any favours at all in the long run. I was better-liked, but when it came to applying for my next job I was uncompetitive compared to the more selfish/savvy people.

If you want his job, look at what extra things in the personal specification you would need to have, and work on gaining those. You won't find "have a poor work ethic" in there.
posted by tinkletown at 3:47 AM on June 17, 2016 [30 favorites]

Is he actually unethical (e.g. claims other people's work as his own, throws colleagues under the bus etc)? If that's what you'd have to become to "succeed" for your definition of success, then no I don't think it's worth it. Money comes and goes but you'll always have to live with yourself.

Or is it that his skills are those which you don't ascribe much value to? E.g. good at dealing with people, knowing what the boss wants and delivering that (and only that, not wasting time on less valued projects), having lots of contacts in other organisations? If that's the case then yes, it's worth developing the skills that are valued in your organisation and industry. These may be different to what you think *should* be the most important.

How to deal? Make yourself more marketable, don't discount the "soft" skills. Some people do get lucky by being in the right place at the right time, but there's things you can do to improve your chances. But mainly: find meaning and satisfaction outside of work.
posted by pianissimo at 4:00 AM on June 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

You'll be much happier in life if you don't compare yourself to other people and if you get rid of concepts like who 'deserves' things from your world view.
posted by fixedgear at 4:25 AM on June 17, 2016 [18 favorites]

There are all sorts of things that could be going on.

First, to answer the question in the title: if you become someone you dislike, you won't have succeeded. Unless becoming someone you dislike is a goal you genuinely want. Considering your word choice ("someone I don't like"), that's doubtful. So no, don't go that route.

Regarding your colleague and the things that could be going on. It could be that the organization promotes that sort of ethic because it's what they want. This is how bad management propagates. Would you really want to work with an organization like that? Or, as others have suggested, it could be healthy management and there are other reasons he got the position.

In any case. You can only succeed at being you. You know all those fairy tales about people who sell their souls to the devil, and the devil is a charming man who assures them they'll get everything they want in life and more... if they just make this little, meaningless sacrifice? And the sacrifice unfailingly ends up being something or someone directly correlated with their heart/life's meaning and as such it affects other people as well. Yeah. Don't sell your soul to the devil.

Look at what you're dissatisfied with in life and see if there are things that correspond to your personal values that could make you happier. Often it translates to finding meaning outside of work. The reason for this is that it helps put work in perspective; you start to have a very different understanding of "success" and "achievement".
posted by fraula at 4:29 AM on June 17, 2016

I just know that this person has not been a nice colleague to work with based on his work ethic and quality..

There is a clip from SNL where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey say on Weekend Update, "Bitches get stuff done." He doesn't have to be a nice colleague to work with. He doesn't have to have the best quality work. He has to know how to show that things got accomplished.

What should I "look" at this and move on?

When it comes to something as concrete as a career, you can't think in terms of "dreams" and "rich and beautiful people" and "talent and luck" and "deserve." You need to focus on skills.

If you're not working for yourself and want to move up, you'll have to not ascribe negative traits to skills like: delegating work on a project, holding others accountable, schmoozing influencers a bit to make things easier, etc. Those are all skills you'll have to learn.

If you ARE working for yourself, you'll have to be TWICE as good at all of the above.
posted by kimberussell at 4:47 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to pay a lot of attention to how other people were doing, and it made me jealous. Things seemed unfair. It took a lot of time to work through this sort of misguided thinking, but I managed to make it happen. I don't have time to describe all of the work I did to get to where I am now, but I just wanted to mention one book that gives a quality quick summary to thought processes that help: The Four Agreements. It's definitely self-help lite, but its main points are valid and helpful. You might want to check it out. If you can begin practicing its recommendations even a little, you might find some relief.
posted by jdroth at 5:33 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

It sucks, and it's hard to avoid, and I think it's an especially tough lesson to learn if you've been trying to get ahead the "right" way, with hard work and learning and helping others.

To some extent, you can avoid it. Some organizations and industries are especially bad at rewarding braggadocio and game-playing while ignoring effort or ethics. But others pay attention to people who are good humans and good colleagues. Find one of these and stay there as long as you can.

But there is an element of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Some traits that might seem repellent to you at first (e.g. self-promotion, schmoozing, overconfidence) will actually help you, and they aren't so repellent if you wield them wisely and in moderation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:12 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

'Be Yourself' Is Terrible Advice NYT link
posted by greta simone at 6:22 AM on June 17, 2016

One realization, from me at the crankiest stage of midlife, is that since companies have been legally required to "increase shareholder value" as their highest priority, they have been herded down a road of psychopathic behavior. Some organizations still have other human values engaged as a means to get there. But a lot of companies essentially award - more and more as you climb the ranks - psychopathic behaviors. I'm on my phone but somewhere out there there's quite a blunt (and over-the-top) analysis of this. At the very least we know narcissists abound.

That doesn't mean you can't build an ethical and centered career; lots of people do. But that often will come at the cost of certain types of rewards. Could you probably learn to behave in a way that would get you more rewards? Sure. Just be aware the system is stacked.

I don't know what the dream company is to which you are referring, but I had a "dream job" and promotion a few years ago and the result was a really unpretty form of burnout -- because everyone was aware all the time that they had dream jobs in a tough industry and as a result there was about zero effort put into creating a great workplace. Or even a decent workplace, for me. I would be careful judging from the outside.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:51 AM on June 17, 2016

I think that people who have been raised well and carefully, in a physically and emotionally safe environment, are likely to trust and like others by default.

They can be themselves, and people will like them. It's an unfair advantage.

Fairness is so fundamental an idea that it's been shown that _animals_ react to unfairness.

Humans have to work to make things fair, for ourselves and others. It's hard. I think it's our struggle.
posted by amtho at 6:59 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did you apply for the job?

A friend once related some fairly sage advice- if you didn't apply for it, you can't complain about the selection. After all, you don't know who else applied- the person who got it might have been the best applicant.

The only jobs you'll have a 100% chance of not getting are the ones you don't apply for.
posted by arnicae at 8:59 AM on June 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

There is a lot of noise in hiring. It's difficult to figure out which candidate would be best, it's often partly guesswork. People do their best. Mistakes are common.

So you should consider the bigger picture rather than focusing on a single blip.

The situation and outcome of just one person reflects very little about what could or should lead to the things you want.
posted by anonymisc at 11:30 AM on June 17, 2016

Thanks for helping me through this, guys! I thought a lot and received great ideas from you all. Over the years, I have taken my "dreams" less and less serious. I guess that's the reality side of things. So eventually, it's just another life thing. Everyone has a different path to walk on but if he could make it, so could I, right? :)
posted by lanhan at 2:40 AM on June 20, 2016

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