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My peers are envious as I climb the ladder…

Dear Office-Politics,

If I may, I have a new challenge to share with you….

As a result of a Management shake-up, my new found leverage and exposure of my work, and a timely re-organization/business transformation under way, I now have been giving the opportunity to be “in” with the CEO and right-hand man (in line to take his position in the future) – and really with the overall Executive Team.

Many of the things I’ve been working towards have been realized, and I find myself in a position of power and influence which I’ve never had before. I have gained more credibility than the majority, if not all, of my “middle management” peers, many of whom have more years of experience, and have been around much longer than me (age wise, I am one of the youngest as well). So, as you can imagine, this has been an exciting period, which I feel very grateful for, and at the same time, I want to stay focused on the work at hand, put aside any ego tendencies, keep working very hard, and adding value to the organization best I can.

One of the key challenges I’m facing now, is potential resentment or “envy” by many of my peers, who I sense feel are being left behind, and have seen me climb the ladder quickly. A key reason for my success, has been my bold approach to change, being a change agent to the business transformation under way, which has impacted some more than others. In a management position without authority, I can not do this alone, and certainly, I have to rely on people some of whom I’ve had to challenge to change their way of thinking. Talking to the right-hand man (mentor of mine now), he tells me I need to be aware of this resentment, and have the sense of awareness to recognize people that have in one way or another helped me get to where I’m at. He explains to me this is something “fast growth individuals”, like himself, have had to deal with when they are on the fast track.

Thoughts, insight, tips? I understand the challenge, and I need to pause and recognize, instead of just being go-go-go, at the same time, I don’t want to be “false”. My style is aggressive, “fastest way from point A to point B”, avoid too much “BS”, etc.


franke james

Dear Climbing-the-ladder,

Congratulations on your successes. It sounds like you’re moving in the right direction, and you have a keen sense of self-awareness. Your primary question is how to diffuse envy by your peers.

Let’s review a few things: You have demonstrated a talent for big picture thinking. You have been an agent for change and successfully influenced the direction of the company. Your mentor is cautioning you to be aware of resentment, and recognize that other people helped you achieve your goals.

I think your mentor is very astute, however if I was in your place I wouldn’t want to be dwelling on the idea that my coworkers were resenting me. It may be the truth but it’s not good self-talk. I would quickly try to refocus my energy, and my coworker’s on the goals ahead. How can you do this?

Four steps:

    1. Respect
    2. Share
    3. Reward
    4. Analyze

1. Respect

It all starts with respect. No matter how bright you are, you haven’t cornered the market on brilliant ideas.

You must genuinely recognize the talents and ideas of each person on your team. Think of yourself as a coach. Even though you’re not as senior as a coach yet, there are many benefits to thinking of yourself that way. A good coach looks at each player, knows their strengths and weaknesses, and develops a training plan to improve each player’s skill set and showcase their talent. How does this work in your situation? Let’s assume that your role does not extend to career development training, what can you do? Make a list for yourself of the talents of each person. You don’t need to show this to anyone. It’s an exercise for you to honestly recognize what the other person’s assets are, and how they can contribute to the team. It may just help you to be less quick in judging or knocking down the other person’s ideas. And more ready to show respect for each individual’s contribution to the team.

Homework: Read Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ book. It’s a great tool for meetings, and it’s helped me enormously when consulting with clients. The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ system will give you an intellectual framework for drawing out and honoring other people’s ideas, getting everyone fixed on the same goal, identifying the hurdles, and charting an action plan.

2. Share
Too many people think that credit is a limited resource to be doled out carefully. It’s not. There’s lots to go around. Share the glory! It will improve the morale of everyone on the team.

Generating successful business ideas requires creative thinking. Many, many ideas have to be put into the pot to build a winning business concept. One idea builds on another. If you look back honestly at the evolution of any business initiative, you’ll probably be able to spot how one idea led to another, or made the idea grow bigger than first imagined. (Even the naysayers can provide fuel, by telling you what could go wrong, so you develop a strategy to avoid that pitfall.)

So, let’s say I’m sitting in the room with you and I’ve congratulated you on successfully getting Management to execute ‘your’ idea. This could be an opportunity for you to share the glory with me. Maybe the big idea was yours — but do a little analysis and track back why it got the go-ahead. Did my idea help you to solve a problem that could have killed it? Thank me in a very specific way that honors my contribution. Did “Kathryn” suggest a tweak that helped focus the marketing? Thank Kathryn. Tell her what she did that was so amazing.

You get the idea. Getting any idea off the ground is like a putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Share the credit generously for finding that puzzle piece and putting it in the right place.

3. Reward

So the negative thinkers out there are reading this and saying, “Well, isn’t this nice… I’m going to be sharing so much credit that the other guy gets the promotion instead of me.” Not necessarily. You want to reward people, AND you want to put your stake in the ground that this part of the puzzle was your brainwave. Think of a movie. It takes a wide range of specialized skills to make a hit movie. And everybody, from the screenwriter, to the director, to the casting director, the lighting director, and the gaffer etc. all get credit for their specific contribution.

How does this apply to your company? Look for ways that you can track the growth of an idea/project and document it. Do you have an Intranet or Wiki that can chart the progress? Could you reward people by putting their name next to an idea or contribution they’ve made?

Whether this is a doable solution for you or not, the basic concept is worth honoring. You will motivate people to reach higher and achieve more by rewarding their contribution in a public way.

4. Analyze
You may have thought that analyze was going to be an outward task, but it’s your phrase ‘put aside any ego tendencies’ that inspired this one. The greatest people in my experience are those individuals who can study their own behavior and see their own shortcomings. They analyze where they went wrong and they make corrections immediately.

I sense from your letters that you have the makings of a very talented executive. You have the vision to see where you want to go. If you can build a strong team, where each person’s talent can flourish, they will love working with you, and you will have a much better chance of achieving your goals. And you will also achieve something else which is much talked about but very rare: You will be a tremendous leader.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Let me know if this helps!


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

  1. 2 Answers to “My peers are envious as I climb the ladder…”

  2. Feedback from Climbing-the-ladder:

    Thank you kindly for the advice, I appreciate it. It is very useful, and I have given it much thought over the past few days.

    By Letter-writer on Mar 24, 2007

  3. While taking an Applied Business Technology course online our Human Relations class teamed up in groups of 3 or 4 to produce collaborative papers–our group chose “Ethics in Office Politics” and your website was #1 when I entered those key words. As a believer myself, I was happy to see someone who combined law, business and theology–a somewhat rare combination. Ethics involves very old religious concepts that some of us forget or never had the privilege of learning!

    By Lynda Strutt on Apr 10, 2007

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