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The Unseen Bane of the Workplace – Resentment

At first mention, many people immediately assume that resentment in the workplace has to do with the emotions some individuals experience over certain people getting promotions or raises instead of  themselves.  In some cases this does apply, however there is also a much more insidious way in which the emotion of resentment enters the playing field, particularly for those in leadership positions.  It sits patiently in the back of a Manager’s mind, just waiting for the right time to slowly seep into the fabric of their thoughts, subtly creeping along until it is firmly cemented within the psyche.  Once present, it affects workplace interaction in some very unfortunate ways.

Let’s look at how this situation can build up.

Cause & Effect

One of the primary causes has to do with a Manager who is unable, or not allowed to reward the excellent employees within their organization(s) for their contributions.  This causes them to constantly think to themselves – “I wish I could give something to, or do more for ­­­­___________”.  Then of course, every time an employee provides exceptional results, the pattern is repeated.

This constant wishing then builds up over time, causing the Manager to feel, you guessed it – resentment toward that particular employee.

A Manager experiences this resentment because their inability to provide rewards for good work makes them subconsciously feel inadequate as a leader.  So, even when an employee is congratulated for exceptional work, that work then becomes silently viewed with disdain in the Manager’s mind as it is a constant reminder of that inability to the Manager in question.

That is the trap of resentment.

After the feeling of inadequacy takes hold, it can have a ripple effect, causing other issues like these:

  • It can cause the Manager to view the exceptional employee with some forms of paranoia, like the old adage that the employee is after the Manager’s job.  This is absolutely not true in the majority of cases, but in the Manager’s mind, it can be a very real possibility.
  • The Manager may begin to look for ways to move the exceptional employees out of their department (even if it causes difficulties for the remaining team members) in order to eliminate the feelings of inadequate leadership.  It may seem illogical, but it does happen with a higher level of frequency than people think.
  • The exceptional employee(s) may begin to receive very mundane assignments from the Manager in question so that their abilities are under-utilized, thus denying them a chance to shine.
  • The Manager may choose to nitpick on any small negative occurrence they can think of (particularly during performance reviews) in order to make the employee in question feel as if they failed and are undeserving.

Overcoming the Negativity

As stated previously, consider that the primary cause for the lack of tangible rewards is usually due to the Manager in question having a sparse number of options available, or they simply may have been told by their superiors that no rewards can be given at all.  So in lieu of those, they should consider these alternatives:

  • A written thank-you or congratulatory memo

Yes it’s true, even with all the other communication technology available today, the simple basics like a thank you note/memo can still mean the world to someone.  Just be sure to be sincere without overdoing it.

  •  Gratitude in person

This can take a few different forms.  For example, thanking and congratulating the employee for their work and contributions during a staff meeting, or another type of departmental gathering.  This will demonstrate to everyone present that what they do matters, which can help team cohesion,  understanding, and confidence, among many other things.

  • A Departmental Celebration

When a particularly difficult problem is overcome, or an extensive project is completed successfully, then that is usually cause for celebration.  This can be done in many forms – a departmental potluck luncheon, or a social gathering after work, etc.  Most professionals welcome the opportunity for these types of occasions as it helps relieve stress.

Finally Giving Good Workers their Due

Now, there will come a time when rewards can be given again.  When the time comes, Management must make certain that those who are truly deserving ultimately receive those accolades.  To ensure that nothing is forgotten, keep a simple log of your employees’ accomplishments and contributions.  It doesn’t have to include every little thing or detail, but it should contain major successes and milestones.

Alternatively, some companies may ask their employees to document their accomplishments as well.  This information from the employee’s perspective can be extremely useful for a Manager to compare their own notes with, so don’t be shy about asking for input if it’s not already being done.  Such documentation will help immensely for present and future considerations.

Ultimately, no matter what method is used for determination, just remember that a little appreciation goes a long way, and rewarding people for their contributions can be one of the most fulfilling activities a Manager can perform, and those are the moments that matter.

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