Help! I’ve Just Been Lapped!

Help! I've Just Been Lapped!

If you say this hasn’t happened to you, or that it happened to you but you didn’t care, you’re lying.

It’s a universal experience. You and a same-aged colleague with a similar background and education start out at identical places in your careers. It’s probably on the bottom rung. You know the same people, do the same things. And then one day, that colleague has something fantastic happen, like a major promotion or a high-profile mentorship. Maybe he plays his cards right, maybe it’s just a lucky break. But either way, his career is suddenly skyrocketing while yours is…not.

You’ve been lapped.

Colleague: 1. You: 0

It’s tough to know how to feel when this happens. One the one hand, you are happy for your colleague, who may even be your friend. But human nature being what it is, you’re also pissed off, resentful, and insecure because you’re evidently a no-talent loser while your colleague has turned your mutual experiences into gold.

It would be easy to stop trying, to accept that once you’ve been lapped once, it’s bound to happen again and again as your colleague gains momentum. It would be easy to sink into a depression because no matter what you do, your career will never sparkle and amaze in quite the same way.

That time when you dusted the people who once lapped you

Well, I’m here to tell you why being lapped isn’t the worst thing in the world. Let’s start with high school. Remember the people who lapped you then? They were the pretty jocks and cheerleaders, the kids for whom being a teenager was graceful and effortless. I’m sure you’ve heard the notion that in all likelihood, these sort of kids peak in high school and that it’s all downhill after graduation. They will never again be as successful in the game of life. While the nerds get rich with their tech start-up and winning stocks, the cool kids are working dead-end jobs and frequenting the same sports bars they hung out 20 years ago.

Similarly, the fact that someone has lapped you in your career now doesn’t mean that person is guaranteed to be ahead forever. Careers are a journey. This year could be your colleague’s high point, while next year might be yours.

So try to stop thinking of the situation as all or nothing (i.e. now that she got that promotion I’ll never catch up) and realize that this could be a golden opportunity to challenge yourself and find a way to be on top. There’s nothing that fuels motivation more than a little competition, and your colleague’s sprint ahead could in fact be just the incentive you need. It may just give you the courage, for instance, to ask your boss what you need to do to perform at a higher level.

Other people’s shoes may look fancier, but they hurt

It’s also worth mentioning that a fortuitous career occurrence does not mean your colleague’s existence is all wine and roses. You never know what’s going on in other areas of that person’s life, so you should never wish, in a fit of jealousy, that you could switch places. Remember that in every clichéd movie ever made with this scenario, the body switcher happily goes back to her old life.

Getting lapped is not easy, and if it doesn’t bring out the best in you, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to sulk and curse the universe for a few days. What’s important, though, is that you get back up, send your colleague sincere congratulations, and go about your business. Your time is coming.

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