Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you're having a lovely time with family and friends. I heard recently on a Richroll podcast a discussion around the hedonistic treadmill, and how people can get caught up in their goals and accomplishments.

Someone said (and I'm paraphrasing here),

"No one says on their deathbed that they're thrilled they made VP, or worked at some fancy company. What really matters in the end? Connection."

They referenced how important it was to simply connect to your close friends and neighbors. Simply chatting with a real human rather than arguing on social media.

I hope that you're taking the opportunity over the holiday period to connect with friends and relatives and neighbors. Amusingly, as I write these words, I'm literally hanging out with a group of friends, but I'm in a bedroom typing. So, I'm going to get this posted, and walk out of this room. See you in 2023!

In my emails and coaching practice, I often get questions which use the word "fair".

"Is it fair that my co-worker claims credit for my work."
"Is it fair that my co-worker is paid more?"
"Is it fair that I need to wait another 6-months before being promoted?"
"Is this negative feedback I received fair?"

Stress over what you can control.

We want things to be unbiased. Merit based. No favoritism.

Things are often unfair. You can't control how others perceive things, or their actions.

What can you control? Your reaction. Your communication.

Many people default to the emotional reaction of, "But that's not fair!" They show they're upset. They make others uncomfortable.

How often does making people uncomfortable and showing that you're unhappy changed someone's mind?

"I don't think you're ready for promotion."
"But you're wrong!"
"Thanks to Danny for helping on that project."
"But Danny barely helped!"

These types of emotional reactions tend to make people feel defensive, and rarely change anyone's mind.

What's the better approach?

Start with deciding what you want.

What do you want out of the situation?

The key is to not look at what's going wrong, but instead look at what you want the outcome to be. It's the difference between:

"I don't like that my knee hurts."
"I don't want to be kicked in the knee again."

Instead of focusing on "unfair" (which is about the past), focus on what you want in the future.

"Is it fair that my co-worker claims credit for my work."

Is your co-worker taking away credit, or does it just annoy you?

Are you trying to ensure that everyone knows about your contributions? What is the root of your need?

You want to get credit for your work.

If, for example, you're already getting credit for your work, is this simply a matter of you being offended that someone undeserving got credit as well? Is stressing about this worth spending your political energy?

"Is it fair that my co-worker is paid more?"

I assume you don't specifically want your co-worker to be paid less (that'd be pretty petty of you). What you're hopefully stressing about is that you feel you add as much (or more) value as your co-worker, which suggests that you should be paid more as well.

You want to be paid more.

"Is it fair that I was told to wait another 6-months before being promoted?"

I imagine that you're annoyed about the timeframe of your promotion because you feel like you're already doing the work. It's a difference between your expectations of what you think you're already doing, and what the job expectations are for the next level.

You want to be promoted as quickly as possible.

"Is this negative feedback I received fair?"

If you made a huge mistake at work, I imagine you'd accept that feedback. You'd feel bad about your mistake, and try to fix it.

What you're stressing about is that you received feedback which you don't feel appropriately identifies gaps in your performance. Your internal image of what you should be doing, and what you are doing, doesn't match the feedback you received.

You want to be in sync with your manager on job expectations, as well as your performance against those expectations.

Avoid communicating your negative emotions.

When someone complains about things being unfair, they're reflecting their emotional reaction to something in the past. However, the fact that you're unhappy isn't a reason for someone to change their mind. However, it is (fair or not fair) a reason for them to not want to interact with you as much.

A couple of engineers and a product manager had gotten together to discuss how to design the next phase of a project the team had been working on. Velma, an engineer on my team, was not invited (along with a few other people).

Velma confronted the engineer who had organized the meeting. She said that she was offended by not being included in the design group, and was going to have a hard time working on the project when she had no say in the design.

The lead engineer talked to me, and said that I should probably find Velma another project to work on.

Why? How did Velma get herself into this position?

I think we can ignore why the lead engineer didn't invite Velma to the meeting in the first place. It might be because the engineer wanted only the most senior employees in the discussion. It might be because Velma was out sick that day. It could have been favoritism, and the engineer was only inviting their closer co-workers. Perhaps it was simply an unfortunate oversight.

Regardless, Velma went to that engineer, and made them uncomfortable. She made their future working relationship more stressful, and threatened to make this project more difficult.

Ignoring if Velma was being treated fairly, would her reaction make the lead engineer more or less likely to want to work with Velma?

If Velma wanted to be included, she was acting counter to her goal. She wanted to be included more, but ended up excluded due to how she handled the situation.

What should she have done instead?

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