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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Anti-Support Group: Dealing with Critics and Naysayers

Two weeks ago, I offered nine tips to help you feel more confident on the job. By now, hopefully you feel reassured, confident, and poised to kick butt—both in and out of the office.

But now that you’re armed with a new sense of determination, what happens when other people in your life (friends, family, co-workers) express concerns or reservations about your professional pursuits? Your well-intentioned mother worries that you’re taking on too much work. A supervisor constantly underestimates your skills and discourages you from participating in more challenging projects. An investor second-guesses your business plan and makes you feel insecure. Or maybe a friend gets frustrated that you’re spending all your time on the job.

It’s not uncommon, especially when you are on the verge of success, to find that people—even those closest to you—may seem unsupportive. Sometimes, this attitude is the product of genuine concern. But at other times, these sentiments can reflect an underlying jealousy. And from time to time, you might simply be misinterpreting the message.

Differentiate Between Constructive Criticism and Jealousy

As you realize your personal or professional goals, you might find that friends or co-workers who have not been as lucky or who haven’t achieved as much may feel envious of your progress. When you sense disapproval, it’s important to distinguish between meaningful criticism and unwarranted jealousy.

If you suspect that someone is jealous of your success, take a step back. Try to disengage. Instead of reacting angrily or passive-aggressively, use neutral responses, like, “Thanks for your feedback, I will keep that in mind.” Or, “I really appreciate that you are thinking of me.”

If the negativity persists, discuss your discomfort in a dispassionate manner, without putting the other person on the defensive. But if you sense in your gut that a friend, colleague, or co-worker is feeling jealous, take their comments with a grain of salt. Don’t let their negativity influence your judgment about your own career.

Don’t Misinterpret the Message

On the other hand, before you discount anyone’s concerns or write off their criticisms as jealousy, make sure you’re being objective and that you consider their points of view.

When your co-worker expresses doubts when you tell her you’re asking for a promotion—is she unhappy that your career is progressing faster than hers, or could she have important feedback about your job skills or how you fit into the company’s current situation?

You may be feeling confident on the job, but you don’t ever want to be too confident.  There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and the latter can be incredibly off-putting.

Realize That Risk Thresholds are Different

Not everyone is entrepreneurial or ambitious in his or her career. For instance, I left my secure, enjoyable, and well-paying job to start my own freelance writing business. But this kind of move is not for everyone.

If you do make a bold professional move, it’s understandable if the folks who love you most might balk. They might worry about your financial circumstances, your ability to deal with the stress, or your capacity to handle failure. And you should give some thought to what they say: Those closest to you are often the ones most aware of your shortcomings and are able to anticipate what you’ll struggle with.

But when all is said and done, you must be true to yourself. Consider your personality, your dreams, your responsibilities, and then decide what makes the most sense for you.

Photo courtesy of Wolleydog.