the best at work

4 consequences of wanting to be the best at work

If you are reading this article, you are probably worried about “how to be the best at work”, you may even be Googling the best tips to be the best at work. That’s why we believe you must know the psychological consequences of wanting to stand out at any cost in your emotional state.

Don’t worry (so much) about being the best at work

The demands placed on many people by a specific industry or work environment cause many workers to feel enormous pressure to do what they have to do well and worry too much about how to be the best at work

They are also driven to compete and stand out at all costs to not “disappear” and to have what is considered an excellent professional reputation, even if that is at the expense of their psychological well-being. 

We all want to progress professionally and be the best at work, whatever the consequences. However, many times and for different reasons, we transform that ambition (healthy and coherent) into a kind of greed to achieve more, come first, or be the best. We have to draw the labor market’s attention to our virtues and our performance so that the labor market does not look at our competitors before us. This puts enormous pressure on us, as achieving these standards for free is impossible

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If we are unaware of this, different consequences will likely affect our psychological well-being. 

4 consequences of the pressure to be the best at work

1. Permanent insatisfaction 

Having to constantly think about how to be the best at work and trying to be the best at work means that we never reach a point in our career that is already good. This generates a permanent feeling of dissatisfaction or frustration with our achievements. Nothing is ever enough: good enough, known enough, profitable enough, better enough than what the next person is doing. 

2. Constant alertness

Our professional career is so demanding that we can never relax if we want to be the best at work. We always have to be attentive to every detail overlooked, to every nuance that we can polish, monitor what others are doing (to improve ourselves), and identify what has become obsolete to update it… There is no rest. 

3. Stress and anxiety

It is closely related to the above. Our professional career is perceived as a path on which we never get anywhere, like the classic myth of Sisyphus: when we reach the top, the ball falls, and we have to start the ascent from scratch. This can overwhelm us, and we can even live with a sense of anguish or fear related to our professional side and the pressure we feel to figure out how to be the best at work. Nothing we have achieved is good enough; it could disappear at any moment. We can’t relax. We must constantly be fueling the machine beyond what is necessary.

the best at work

4. Poor professional self-esteem

The road to “success,” that is, to reveal ourselves as the winners in the permanent competition with our professional rivals, is challenging, and many cannot navigate it without stumbling. That is why, when we struggle, we start to think that we are the only problem. We believe that if we don’t stand out enough, we’re not good enough. That biased view can put us in a depressed state of mind related to our professional capabilities, reputation, or performance quality. 

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How to overcome the pressure to be the best at work?

1. Relativizes “bad” results

The overly demanding work environment disconnects us from something very natural: the possibility that we might sometimes fail or not achieve as good a result as the person next to us. Then our demons are triggered about how we are falling behind, how badly we will be considered at work, and the severe consequences of an isolated event that happened one day, which should not be considered the “whole story” in our work… 

We cannot panic whenever we fail to achieve every little thing we set out to do to accomplish what we consider professional success. Not everything is transcendent, relevant, or decisive.

It is essential to fight these stresses by relativizing, that is, putting things in context and assigning them the actual relevance they have. This includes relativizing the importance we give to the idea of being the best at work.

2. Take it slow

There are tremendously demanding professional careers in which you have to be very involved to stand out (that is if you want to be successful). It is convenient to do it early if you do not want to be left behind permanently and want to be the best in your job.

However, most professional careers are not only long but also slow. They have many twists and turns. Many factors influence their progress.

Being hard-working, striving, and looking for the best result is great, but it is not a guarantee of quick and sure success either. It is better to be more discreet but achieve solid results and, if possible, enjoy (or at least not suffer) than to put all the energy into figuring out how to be the best at work, stand out and make a name for oneself without there being much substance underneath.

3. Make your concept of success more flexible

Have you ever stopped to think about what you base your professional satisfaction and reputation on? Are the right indicators based on the correct values for your particular case? 

We often assume as our own a concept of work success that does not fit our style or skills or was adequate some time ago but has ceased to be so. When that happens, we disconnect from ourselves and start to function according to an alien logic, to what others want our success to be. 

However, not everything in life is about having a million-dollar salary or a giant office or a high-profile position. Other indicators of job success may be more appropriate (and healthier) for you right now. Look for them and find them.

4. Design a professional project that is right for you

When all we want is to be the best at work, we have one eye on ourselves and the other (at least) on others. Unless all our attention is focused on the other person, let’s focus on ourselves, on finding out what the professional objectives are coherent and satisfactory for us at any given moment, and let others follow their own path.  

5. Handle yourself assertively

What we call “the system” or “the world of work” will always want more from you, and it will always put it to you as if it is suitable for you in all circumstances. Suppose we manage to be committed to a professional project that concerns us and to an idea of success that is human and healthy. In that case, we will be in a good position to say “no” to a quest for success that is too demanding or inappropriate for us. A success that does not suit us puts our psychological well-being at risk. We must know our limits to withstand external pressure to be the best at our job, give more, and come first. 

6. Healthy construction of one’s professional reputation

We must all find our added value at a professional level but without the gluttony of having to stand out at all costs, mainly because pretending to be the best at work is an illusion. We can stand out within a particular group of people, in terms of some specific characteristics, or at a certain time, but usually not much more. 

There are so many of us “competing”, wanting to make ourselves visible, carving out our careers, that this makes us appear small to each other. It makes us invisible. Therefore, although we have to highlight our qualities so that they are seen and known by those who know them, we must be aware that there is a limit to this. We must not burn ourselves or sacrifice ourselves on the altar of “standing out”, being the best, the number one, the most prestigious.

The question of how to be the best at work is a bottomless pit: it stresses us out, prevents us from enjoying ourselves, and always leaves us unsatisfied, as it is an exhausting race because it never ends. 

the best at work

Emotional well-being for companies

At ifeel, we are solely committed to increasing employees’ and their companies’ well-being at work. That is why we want to help you in the challenge of generating stimulating and healthy work environments for your employees.  

For this purpose, our psychologists have created an emotional well-being program for companies. Through this collaboration, your company’s human resources managers will be able to receive personalized, data-driven advice on how to improve their teams’ psychological well-being. On the other hand, this program provides employees with a complete mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. Try our program now to see how it can help you.

Visit our Resources section, where you will find podcasts on different topics (such as an employee experience guide), guides for Human Resources, or interviews with top HR managers. Moreover, take a look at the webinars we organized on occupational health and work environment. 

In addition, you will have access to a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which will help you comply with the Labor Inspectorate’s requirements.  

We hope this post on how to be the best at work and its psychological consequences when that desire gets out of hand has given you good ideas to help you accomplish your tasksContact us to learn more about how our emotional well-being program for companies works. Get in touch, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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