Are you threatening someone at work?

Photo by Duncan Harris

Recently, I worked with a young health care graduate referred by a family member who successfully used my services previously. The face-to-face appointment with the new client and my former client let my former client know how my services evolved and gave my new client new job search strategies.

The client had worked in health care for more than four years in the same facility and was perplexed that her supervisors suddenly seemed to treat her differently. I asked if anything in particular had happened. No, she said. Then I asked when this seemed to change.

She replied that it was around the time she completed her Bachelor’s Degree. This elevated her not only to being a nurse from a lower level staff member but her new degree is also more education than many of her supervisors have.


I asked if it might be jealousy that was caused when she attained a higher level of success than others. The look of surprise on her face and the surprised comments from both parties was enough to tell me that this never occurred to them.

I reminded them that in this economy, any jobs are at a premium and shifting from a role as a staff member to a new graduate put her in a place that may be threatening people who previously saw her as just a young helper.

I see multiple problems here. First of all, my client is simply following her goals which should have been evident since she was going to school while she worked in the same department. I asked if she had treated anyone differently at work. This is a hard evaluation because we often don’t think we have. She may not have changed her behavior and let’s assume that for now.

Tough economy – more education

When we are in a tough economy, we want to do all we can to grow our skills, enhance our education, and follow through with our goals. This young lady graduated with high honors and worked hard throughout school to complete her degree. But our coworkers may now perceive new education as a threat.

The paradox of companies who want college graduates as employees and employees assigned to supervising staff members without the same degree can cause stress in the workplace. Adding the current economic stress to the mix and you have a potential for conflict.

Should you talk about it?

Sometimes if you are aware of the feelings of others at the workplace, you can modify your behavior to show that you just want to provide the best customer service / patient care possible and be a team player. You can ask to talk directly with coworkers when you sense there is a conflict.

When these feelings are there but not acknowledged, individuals like my young client may be clueless as to the issues and feel rejected or hated. The consequences to the workplace is that when no one is happy and no one is talking about why, it affects the work and sooner or later, someone will be blamed and jobs will be lost.

Communication could resolve this before it boils over into something bigger.

What do you think?

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  1. Julie Walraven on August 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Definitely true, Karen. It is sad but I know it is happening with more than just my example today. I had conversations with two other people since I wrote this who said either they themselves or someone they knew could relate.

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