You sit in front of the presentation from the boss, listen to him drone on and on, and wonder how he ever got to become the boss.
Or you may sit with the ‘rising star’ at work, who’s your age, hear him talk, and wonder,
What so great about him?
Why aren’t people looking at me?
And there are the times when you see your work simply performing much better than everyone else, and you just wonder why no one seems to ever see it.
Welcome to the club. Where you think you’re better than others.
Here I’m going to start by saying.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way
Often we hear of people telling us to think of ourselves as less than others, and to be humble.
I will humbly say,
If you’re better, you are.
There’s no need to hide that. Or to feel ‘wrong’ for thinking this way.
Own what you think and feel of your own abilities. As we grow up, we are taught that bragging is not good, and we are taught to be humble about what we have achieved.
Sure, a healthy measure of humility is good, so that you’re driven to push harder.
But stopping to recognise the good in yourself is also necessary to motivate yourself to go on.
If you were beating yourself with a stick all day, trying to think of how to downplay your achievements, or how to see others as greater than yourself, how would you stay motivated to do your work, when you yourself do not celebrate it?
But the problem comes when we live in a society that tells us that being proud, is not good.
I’ve been there.
When I was complaining to my boss about how bad my colleague was, she asked me to reflect on my own actions.
Nothing against that.
But as I’ve come to coach more people in their careers, I’ve come to see more people who’ve come to believe what society tells them, and what they eventually tell themselves.
That you’re not good as others.
Thinking that you’re better than others may also cripple your own work. When I was working in a non-profit, I quickly realised that the speed of my execution and the depth of thinking towards the problems I saw far outweighed what others were doing.
I was frustrated that little I did seemed to gain traction. Then one day, a colleague pulled me aside and told me,
John, the problem is not that you see this as more than a job.
The problem is that everyone else sees it as just a job.
That struck me. That in a place where others were simply not as driven to make things better, where others were not of the same caliber, I would remain stuck.
Give yourself permission to say that.
Others are not as good as me.
Sure, they may be better in other areas. But in areas where you see your own strengths, take time to celebrate your skills, and recognise that others may just not be as good.
That gives you the courage to own what you’re good in, and have the confidence to share your ideas.
So why do you feel you’re better than others?
That’s really the wrong question to ask.
Because there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.
A simple answer to why that happens is firstly, because you are.
When you look at others do their work, and you see your own work, it’s better in quality and the outcomes it achieves.
Secondly, it’s because we compare. As humans living in a society, we take reference from others.
We look at what others do and we take reference on our performance based on what we see.
That’s why you may think you’re better than others.
But today, perhaps a better question to ask is,
What do you do when you’re better than others?
I’ve said the first step is to own your strength.
The frustration of finding fit
But the second step is to find places where there’s a good mix of people who are better than you, and people who are not as good.
The feeling of being hemmed in, of being forced into a round hole, even though you’re a square peg, can be frustrating.
In my first job, I was interested in many different things that were outside my job scope. Although my job was casework management, I wanted to contribute in areas like marketing, web development, and IT support.
I started to suggest improvements to my operations manager about ways to make our IT systems better.
She rejected them.
Interestingly, a year later, after I left, I realised they implemented my suggestions.
There were other times when I suggested changes to programmes over an informal chat with a colleague and I had a team leader email me (copying the entire team in classic shame management style),
You need to tell me if you have suggestions…
As cliche as this sounds, there’s no ‘I’ in team.
After that incident, I felt frozen out, as if my suggestions didn’t matter anymore.
I was even issued with a Performance Improvement Plan, a get better or get sacked plan.
Maybe that’s you. You find yourself suggesting better ideas than others. You find your ideas being eventually implemented, without giving you credit. Despite your capacity and ability for more, you find yourself shoehorned into a single role.
The early years can suck
The first years of your career can be difficult.
You’re this bright, bubbly employee ready to give your job your all. You want to learn everything. Try anything.
You give suggestions by the bucketload. You’re the Hermonie Granger with her hands in the air, ready to take anything on.
But you find your boss just not that into you, or whatever you suggest.
And many times, companies prefer to stuff employees into staid, fixed, job descriptions, telling you to follow the job description and to just do your job.
Sure, they tell you they are always happy to take your suggestions, but whether or not they will eventually see the light of day, and be implemented, is another matter.
You may feel your effectiveness waning.
And when that happens, you find yourself increasingly feeling ready to quit.
If you’re better, here’s my best advice.
Find a place that welcomes you.
That won’t be easy. But talk to employers and choose them as if you were choosing a life partner.
Tell them that you want to add, and that you want the autonomy and flexibility to explore different job roles.
Often a structured learning programme like Lendlease’s Management Associate Programme can help you to learn many different things at once.
If you’re an A-team, play in an A-team. Don’t settle for anything less.