Success in the Workplace: It’s Not Always about Playing Fair

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Success in the Workplace: It’s Not Always about Playing Fair

woman sitting at desk

How Success is Defined in the Workplace (and is it fair?)

What defines success in a workplace? While this varies from one company to the next, for the most part, most work environments have been designed to reward observable employee behavior. This typically includes the quality of time an employee spends at work, punctuality, agreeing with the boss (playing the corporate game), how much money they make for the company, and their dedication to putting the company first.

Of course, simply because this is how the average workplace judges employee success, doesn’t necessarily make this judgement of behavior fair, especially because it rarely is. In fact, a lot of workers in the UK feel quite the opposite. Recent research reveals that only 10% of all Brits think that their workplace is completely fair.

The research, which was conducted by online casino PlayOJO’s fairness advocates, investigates whether fairness and success go hand-in-hand. The findings were rather dismal. Aside from 90% of Brits feeling their work environment is unfair, 98% feel that success is not based purely on ability, and almost a third of 35-44 year olds feel they are disrespected by their seniors at work.

Such findings reveal that a person’s success in a work environment may have less to do with how well they perform or how talented they are, and has more to do with how well they play office politics or even whether or not they are personally liked by their boss.

Moreover workplace dynamics matter to a person’s growth and success in a job. For instance, while some people are happy performing a job and completing a task without recognition, numerous studies on the relationships between gratitude and work engagement, including a study by Harvard Medical School, reveal that most of us crave appreciation to feel good about the work we do and about ourselves in general.

Without receiving gratitude for hard work, this can negatively impact work as well as have a knock-on effect on lifestyle, upsetting the work/life balance. This can hurt an employee’s performance, engagement, well-being and health.

Knowing this, you might be wondering if it’s even possible for a workplace to be completely fair and provide a successful working environment for its employees. The answer is that while it is possible and some companies do, in fact, do their best to provide their employees with a fair, healthy and positive workplace, most don’t. Office politics typically run the show and what one person feels is fair may not be the same to someone else. Fairness and success rarely go hand in hand.

What can you do about it? While you can’t always control how your behavior might be judged at work, you can keep your own judgment of others and yourself to a minimum. It’s easy to blame someone else for your lack of success or blame yourself for not working or trying hard enough. You need to remember that you can do only what you can do and it’s not up to you to judge the people around you for how they may or may not be performing.

Your success in the workplace – not a fellow colleague’s – is your responsibility and should be your primary focus. Judging others isn’t what defines them, it’s what defines you. The first step toward success is feeling good about yourself. The happier you are in your life and in your job, the more productive and engaged you will be at work.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that achieving success will lead to happiness. According to studies conducted by Yale University’s psychology department, happiness is rarely the result of success and actually precedes it. In most cases, happiness drives performance. While it can result from success, the happiness that results from success isn’t long-term because success is about reaching a goal. Once the goal is reached, the happiness is fleeting. Pursing meaning in the present is what often helps to increase our rate of success in the long run.

Ultimately, achieving success in the workplace isn’t about fairness as much as it is about being happy.