Jealousy from the Stressed, and how to avoid it.

Disclaimer:
This post handles jealousy and is based on my German/European experience. Jealousy is said to be a more common emotion in German society than elsewhere, so I would be interested how your experience is…

Your decision

Those of you experimenting with downshifting while working as an employee in a company might know the situation:

After thinking a lot about your work life, your consumption and the right balance in your life, you decided to downshift.

You decreased you costs of living, you found out about the pleasures life has to offer at little costs if you have a bit of spare-time. You understood the 80/20 rule, saying that 80% of the result are reached by 20% of the effort and that the remaining 20% of results need 80% of the effort.

You found out that after all you have enough or even too much money if you only manage to spent it the right way, but that you have too little time, to really enjoy today.

So you do the obvious, you cut down your work time as far as possible and you get some healthy mental distance to your employed work. You still do a good job but you decided to avoid being pushed and getting stressed by others.

You are ready to pay the price or are paying it already in form of less chances to get promoted or to get a rise. And you maybe earn already a bit less by not having over hours to hand in for cash as instead you are taking free time.

But that’s fine, your life is much better than before, as your increased happiness by having less stress and more time far outweighs the marginal loss in income.

If the waves get too high at work – you’d better get out of the water before your energy is gone… (Waves seen in Malta)

Will others accept your decision?

But what’s really annoying is your colleagues, who keep on mocking when you are leaving at 5 instead of at 7 as them. Or when you take a day off again, converting over-hours into holiday.

You might have expected that your bosses will complain, and you are prepared for that. But your colleagues?! Why the hell are they mocking, even those who are not at all affected by your work at all? And the same colleagues who complain so much about stress and that one should do something against it?

Simple answer:

They are obviously jealous.

So how can you deal with it?!

Well, at the moment I see only two ways:

1) Be open and explain them your choice

Help them to see the whole package, i.e. you might have less stress and less work but you also have less of a career and less money in the long run.

You don’t do any illegal or immoral. You do your job still properly in the time you do it. And maybe you got even more efficient, because you are more relaxed and less prone to errors made under stress.

It’s a choice you made, and it’s a choice open to all of them. So however they decide for themselves, they shall not complain about your decision.

Generally, I think this would be the right approach. However, you will find that this strategy reaches only a fraction of your colleagues. Namely the more intelligent ones.

So you might have to resort to option 2:

2) Camouflage

This is actually what most people in bigger companies do, not only the downshifters, but also the stupid, the unskilled, the lazy, the hard-trying-but-unsucessful, the successful-but-secretly-incapable and so on. So why not you?

You simply have to find out who the gossipers are in your company and who can keep his mouth shut.

The gossipers you tell every now and then how incredibly stressed you are, you mention some fictive overtime last weekend, the piles of work you take home with you each day and so on. Just be careful they cannot verify it quickly – but don’t worry too much about that, those people like to gabble, not to control. And often they are not the most hard-workings as well. (Their gossiping might even be their own personal strategy to detract from their incapability.)

And tell the truth only to the more intelligent people, those who proved that they keep their mouths shut.

The mass in-between those two groups you tell nothing.

Stay out of trouble

Don’t get defensive. And don’t get too offensive as well. Just relax and leave office when you worked the hours you are contracted for. Make sure to help out when your colleagues are really under pressure every now and then, but make also clear that in general it’s not your job to clean up the mess that some superior managers produce by not prioritizing and allocating work efficiently.

My experience is, it works!
Since quite some time I give my best at work and do a good job. But I generally work only the 39 hours I am contracted for per week. Overhours I convert to additional free time instead of cash. I take long holidays and try not to get involved into the mess others produce. And gradually my colleagues (well most of them) and my bosses got used to it and accepted the way it is. On the other hand, my chances on promotion or a raise might be reduced. But that’s alright, because that was my choice, and one has to accept that you cannot have everything.

Get your downshifting accepted by others really works, especially if you do it gradually. E.g. you leave 10 minutes earlier each week until you are down at your contracted hours. (People behave like frogs – put them in boiling water they are shocked, heat up slowly they will not recognise at all)

And you should keep up a good spirit. Keep out of gossip, don’t join mocking and complaining about others and the cruel wordl, thus you will avoid making enemies.

General when trying to downshift, it is very important that you keep an eye on your reputation in the company.

You don’t want to have a bad one in any case, because that quickly means additional stress again…and that’s not our goal at all, is it?

Enjoy this day!

Woodpecker

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4 comments on “Jealousy from the Stressed, and how to avoid it.

  1. slowborg says:

    I haven’t tried to downshift whilst working in a company – I chose to go to school and get a trade and work for myself. That is absolutely not possible for everyone I realise that, and it was financially incredibly difficult for me, but it helped me not only empower myself but learn to be frugal and live with less, want less, and discern between wants and needs.
    In the sort of situation you have posted about here, I would get very stressed. I would resent feeling like I had to explain myself to my colleagues who should be minding their own business (but when does that happen haha) but yes, of the options you listed, I would find honesty and having the courage of my convictions the best thing to do. After all, your decisions are your business at the end of the day, and their jealousy really affects them more than you!
    Good post 🙂

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Slowborg, thanks for your input.
      I didn’t have an own business yet, but I can well imagine (and data shows so), that satisfaction drawn from self employment is generally higher than from employed work.
      However it depends obviously how well the business is running respectively how attractive the potential employee postition is. Of the latter I had a few already, and if your choice is to get employed then the crucial thing is to have the courage to change jobs if you really don’t likeyour current one. I think that point is missed out by many who stick to their job even though they hate it.
      But if you shop around a bit there are jobs out there which can be ok and of course offer also advantages compared to self-employment: Security, regulated working hours, holidays etc.
      At least in Germany being an employee is not generally a bad situation.

      How do you handle that issues in your business? Is there room for extended holidays or do you just not miss them (as others I know)?

      Explaining yourself to your colleagues IS actually an issue, thats why I wrote the post when I realized that actually there is really nothing to explain, but one feels pushed to do so anyway.

      Cheers, Woodpecker

      • slowborg says:

        Well I was going to mention actually, that whenever I don’t like a job I just leave it. I struggled so much in mainstream employment I became a ‘career temp’ for 7 years so I could leave whenever I wanted to, and was sheltered for the most part from office gossip and politics.
        For a lot of people that isn’t an option, and I have been told I’m brave on many occasions because people fear changing jobs; making new friends at work; learning new tasks; change in general. I am a people person though and changing jobs every 1-26 weeks is a great way to feel rejuvinated in the workplace I felt!

        I am a sole trader, so I work for myself and employ nobody. In actual fact I have gone back to school again and have scaled my work right down to one day a week. As far as holidays – well I could take them whenever I wanted but making enough money to do that in the first few years wasn’t an option. But I had time to myself, ran my own schedule and taking a few days off was totally ok so I didn’t feel the need for a holiday.

        I completely understand feeling the need to explain yourself and your decisions to people. Even outside the workplace I struggle with this issue. It takes great strength of character to walk your own path and make no excuses and give no explanations. I greatly respect anyone who can do that 🙂

      • mrwoodpecker says:

        My respect for the choices you made, that certainly required quite a lot of courage at times.

        I think you have a point there with explaining to others.
        The question whether or explaining yourself will IMHO always be an issue for people that life somehow outside the general mainstream rules. Guess that holds true in a company (if e.g. you want to downshift, take a sabbatical as I am planning to do in summer or something simmilar), or in your own business and generally in life if you do things differently than your peers, your competitors and so on.
        I am a social person as well and I personally don’t like too much conflict as it eats my enery, so it’s a great question for me how to handle this.

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