Insecurity breeds contempt
by Douglas E. Welch
May 7, 1999
If you haven't experienced what follows already, it is only a
matter of time before you do. If we all lived and worked in a
vacuum it might not occur but wherever people work together there
will be conflict. While the severity of the conflict can vary
there tends to be one main cause, insecurity. This can be insecurity
about a boss, a co-worker or a job, but it leads to the same results,
an uncomfortable workplace and sometimes-outright hostility.
Doing too good of a job
Several times in my career I have faced the dreaded, "you are
making us look bad" from a co-worker. I freely admit that this
has little to do with my "tremendous" work abilities and more
to my upbringing. I grew up in rural Ohio where the work ethic
is very strong. Almost any cliché you can come up with (honest
days work for an honest days pay, etc.) would probably apply with
equal authority. Unfortunately, the California work environment
is a tad more laid back. This is not to say that it is a bad environment,
just a different one. The problem is that someone, like myself,
coming into that environment for the first time can generate a
certain amount of animosity by being a little too eager to do
a good job.
That said, the other part of the equation arises from the insecurity
of the people around you. For a variety of reasons -- on-going
layoffs, bad manager relations or personal insecurity about their
abilities -- people will often lash out at those around them who
seem, in any way, to be threatening their job and therefore their
livelihood. In this way, one person's problems can effect an entire
department or company. Of course the effect is magnified if the
person is at a high level in the company.
You're after my job
An insecure person in a high-level management position can lead
to disaster. In some extreme cases it can cause the loss of important
talent, business opportunities and even the failure of the company.
Insecurity at high levels often manifests itself as capriciousness.
Plans are made and cancelled on a whim. Employee input is ignored
or assigned to some devious hidden agenda. To an employee it seems
impossible to do their job since there is so little direction
from above. Everyone walks around on eggshells unsure of what
will draw the bosses' wrath next.
Often the manager's insecurity arises from the questioning of
their own abilities. Perhaps they don't feel they are capable
of doing the job. Perhaps they feel they are in danger of losing
the job. They might feel they didn't deserve the job in the first
place. In all of these cases, though, there is little an employee
can do to change the circumstances.
The only way to cope with such a situation is to salve the manager's
insecurity as much as possible. This often means diminishing your
own accomplishments. The manager will not want to here how things
might be better. They only want to hear how well things are going.
They don't want to hear about your successes, only about their
own. You may need to hide your own accomplishments instead of
sharing them with your boss. To some people this can be intolerable
and finding a new job or moving to a new position or department
might be the only effective way out.
Unfortunately for the insecure worker, their insecurity will quickly
become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They imagine that others sense
their faults and they begin to react on these imagined attacks.
They become difficult work for or with and people do begin to
shun them more and more. Other employees purposely keep them out
of the loop. They seek to diminish the damage that is caused by
the insecure person. Eventually, the problems become obvious to
upper management and the insecure person is fired or demoted.
Of course, in their mind, this is only the end result of a long
running series of attacks.
All of you will eventually come in contact with the type of person
mentioned above. You will need to remember that attacks on your
job performance (or over-performance) are more a reflection of
their insecurity than any fault in you. It is always best to remember
that doing a good job should never be cause for complaints. These
complaints arise out of the other person's fear that they are
not measuring up to some external, or more probably, internal
gauges of success.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org