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December 13, 2018

How to Win at Work, and Keep Your Friends, Too!

Rosie Robinson

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"Did you hear Rick got another promotion?"
"Seriously? I mean, I'm happy for the guy, but how come he got one and I didn't? We basically do the same job!"

It's that time again. No, I don't mean Christmas. It's performance review time! ’Tis the season of promotions, salary increases, and juicy end-of-year bonuses.

But it's also the time for jealousy to rear its ugly head. News of people's latest pay bumps could be met by some with envy or resentment.

We all want to be successful in our careers. But what happens when our achievements come at the expense of important friendships? If your friends and co-workers didn't receive the rewards they were hoping for, your success can make them feel like they've been "left in the dust."

But does that mean that we shouldn't enjoy our achievements in case we offend someone? Or that we should feel ashamed for being successful when others aren't?

Don't Give In to the Guilt Trip

Those of us who value friendship and close working relationships might feel guilty for achieving more than our peers. But we deserve our successes, and nothing should take away from that. Jealousy is only natural, but it's often irrational, too. Your success is probably unrelated to your friends' career progress, so you shouldn't feel bad about achieving your goals.

Also, be mindful of people playing the victim. There may have been a very good reason why your co-worker didn't get a promotion, but she's choosing not to tell you in an attempt to protect her ego.

If your co-worker's negative behavior persists, don’t be afraid to distance yourself from her. You are not responsible for her shortcomings, and nor should she judge you harshly for furthering your career. This sort of negativity can hold you back from further career development, so know when to cut your ties with those who don't have your best interests at heart.

Don't Brag About Your Win!

On the other hand, your friends may be highly supportive of your recent success while masking their real feelings. They could be jealous, angry or sad that they are not progressing at the same rate. So, be careful not to brag. It's a thin line between pride and arrogance, and by overstepping the mark, you risk isolating yourself from a vital support network.

Next time you want to boast about your end-of-year win, healthy paycheck, or swanky new office, consider your audience. Maybe your friends narrowly missed out on a promotion, or budget cuts meant they didn't get the bonus they were expecting. Just because your career is on an upward trajectory, doesn't mean that's the case for everyone.

Invest in Relationships

Perhaps a step forward in your career has meant that you don't spend as much time with your friends as you used to. If you've changed department or moved to a new office, take the time to stay in touch with old contacts. Chances are, in the build-up to your success you’ve built strong relationships along the way. Don’t let that hard work go to waste by losing contact.

Further success depends as much on the company you keep as it does on your work. In an article for Forbes, enterpreneurship consultant Serenity Gibbons argues that keeping your friends can help you to make progress, because they offer motivation, support and perspective. And you never know, your friends' success may be just around the corner. Keeping them as allies could benefit your career in the long run.

Apparently, it's lonely at the top – even Steve Jobs thought so. It is human nature to want to belong, but achieving success can separate you from the pack. It doesn't have to be that way. If you're willing to put in the effort to preserve the relationships that mean the most to you, it is entirely possible to win at work and keep your friends, too.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

But what if the boot is on the other foot? You're trying your best at work, but your efforts haven't been reflected in your end-of-year review. And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, your pal over in Finance tells you that he's been made a Senior Executive, with great benefits to boot. You know that you should feel happy for him; he deserves it. But you also resent his success.

Don't be bitter. It's natural to compare yourself to others, but it can create unhealthy competition. You may start to feel like you're falling behind. Sometimes, career progression is beyond your control, especially when strict budgets or economic instability come into play. Instead, separate your friend's big win from your own progress, and support their achievements. You might even be able to learn from their success, and apply these lessons to your own career.

Remember that big wins come down to the individual. Enjoy your accomplishments and those of your peers. But, don't pit yourself against one another. Everyone's career success is their own.

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