Q. I feel as if one of my co-workers gets all the “plum” assignments. I am pretty sure it’s because she is a very attractive young woman, and I am a mid-30s guy. I don’t think this is fair; how do I address it?
A. Let’s imagine a version of that conversation:
You: “Boss, I don’t mean to complain, but it seems that Donna gets a lot of the better assignments around here and I’m wondering …”
Boss: “You’re wondering what? Are you suggesting that I’m being partial to Donna?”
You: “Well not exactly. I just have this hunch that because she’s young and cute that …”
Boss: “So you have a hunch? Do you know all the factors that go into my decisions? Or maybe you think I just unfairly toss the best jobs to the young and the beautiful?”
You: “Oh no, no! I just kind of noticed she seems to get some plum assignments …”
Boss: “So please help me, what exactly are you saying … or, should I say, accusing me of?”
Good luck with your next answer. You’ve got nowhere to dig but deeper into that hole with that approach. You can never prove your hunch. And guess who looks small-minded, impotent and sniveling in the trying? How could that possibly work to your advantage?
Nonetheless, your complaint may well be right and your aggravation understandable. Youth and good looks have their advantages. And bosses can be fickle and unfair. So what to do?
In a good setting, let your boss know of your interest in certain types of assignments. Don’t hide your enthusiasm. Cite specific examples and what skills you would bring to bear. Get a feel for how willing he/she is to accommodate. Then, see if they materialize. If not, a diplomatic reminder wouldn’t hurt. You could even volunteer for an anticipated future opportunity.
In the Spitzer Center programs, we teach about “The Comparison Game.” It’s natural to descend to a win, lose or draw perspective in the workplace. As a Christian professional, you’re better than that.
Your success ultimately depends on your competence and character. Focus on great performance and avoid the “Comparison Game.” It’s a distraction leading to the dead end of envy and low self-esteem. Instead, play the “Contributive Game.” Let the Lord give success to the work of your hands. (Psalm 90:17)
Jim Berlucchi is the executive director of the Spitzer Center, whose mission is to build cultures of evangelization (www.spitzercenter.org).