A Coaching Power Tool created by Bakhtiar Khawaja
(Executive Coach, PAKISTAN)
If the grass looks greener on the other side, it is probably AstroTurf
My work in the corporate sector, in areas of HR management and HR development, gave me ample opportunity to observe how employees get into arguments with their bosses and with HR on issues like:
- Why I have not been promoted when my colleague, whose performance (in the former’s perception) is lower than mine, has been promoted?
- My bonus is lower than my peers.
- My salary increase is among the lowest in my department.
- My office desk is smaller than that of Mr. X.
- My office does not have a personal coat hanger while others have, etc. etc.
The ritual has become so ingrained that such arguments invariably always crop up around performance appraisal or bonus times, during townhouse meetings or annual conferences. The manner in which dissatisfaction is expressed differs from company to company, depending on its culture, norms and leadership style.
In such situations, as Head of HR, I tried to help people understand by saying things like:
You have done pretty well yourselves, for which you should be thankful to your stars. With a little more effort and application of what you know will take your career beyond your expectations. And that it is futile to compare yourself with others. Your primary comparison is with your own past performance.
I admit it has been difficult to help people understand.
Grass is Greener On the Other Side (GIGOTOS) is an old English idiom, which is indicative of a number of mental processes working simultaneously – some at a conscious level, and others under the surface. Some of these processes are:
- Unhappiness with what we have, sometimes bordering on self pity
- Refusal to acknowledge that our perceptions may be inaccurate
- Lack of gratitude for our own gifts
- Feelings of jealousy against others who are perceived to be better off
- Lack of awareness or willingness about making required efforts to improve the state of affairs at our own end
- Unwillingness to learn from others how to make things better
Corporate environment is a breeding ground for the ‘rat race’ we are familiar with in the present day competitive environment. Typically, people crib and grumble about others being rewarded more than them when, in their opinion, they worked harder than all the rest. This attitude further diminishes their capacity to produce good results.
If unchecked, this frame of mind can undermine our innate benevolence and contentment. It can give rise to an acute ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ state of mind. In this disempowering state we sabotage our sense of well-being and peace of mind by indulging in unnecessary comparisons with others. This ultimately adversely impacts our quality and productivity.
An Illustration of GIGOTOS
As I move closer to the hedge in my back garden, I catch a glimpse of my neighbour’s lawn – and it sure appears to be greener. I look back at my own lawn, and my observation is confirmed. What is going on?
An optical illusion may be at play. When I see my neighbour’s lawn, my perception is based on seeing it at an acute angle – seeing more of the upper and middle parts of grass blades, with the earthy brown hidden from view. This gives the neighbour’s lawn a more wholesome green tinge. On the other hand, my view of my own lawn is based on my near vertical observation from above, with earthy brown mingling with the greenness of the grass.