The top ways workers compare themselves to colleagues

Job performance, work ethic and dress sense are among the top ways we compare ourselves to colleagues - with 51 per cent admitting it negatively impacts their mental health.

Others look at outfit choices (17 per cent), leadership skills (17 per cent) and even how fit people are (15 per cent).

But the poll of 2,000 workers found more will compare someone’s work-life balance (27 per cent) than what they earn (22 per cent). Employees compare themselves to others an average of three times a day – 15 times over a five-day working week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tara Foley, chief executive officer at AXA UK and Ireland, said of the annual Mind Health report examining the country's mental health: “In the UK we are seeing a growing number of people battling with poor mind health and, as people spend a large proportion of their lives working, a supportive workplace environment plays a critical role in addressing this. 

“Research shows that workplace habits are a significant factor, like people comparing themselves unfavourably with their colleagues. The poor mind health associated with this behaviour comes at a huge cost to the UK and global economies, and employers have a duty to respond to this for the benefit of their employees and the wider society.”

TV personality and NHS doctor Dr Alex George, who is working with AXA on their Mind Health campaign, said he has fallen victim to career comparison in the past.

He said: “It is something that is pretty much synonymous with medical training, you are quite literally ranked against every other doctor in the country when you graduate from the best to the worst. At every stage of all career training and progression it is incredibly competitive.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Whilst this can be a good thing to push people to be the best they can be, it can be equally damaging to our mental health. We shouldn’t demonise comparison because it is part of our human nature, so it isn’t the aim to never compare ourselves. But we do have to control it and be able to enjoy other people doing well.”

TV personality and NHS doctor Dr Alex George says he's been a victim of career comparisonTV personality and NHS doctor Dr Alex George says he's been a victim of career comparison
TV personality and NHS doctor Dr Alex George says he's been a victim of career comparison | SWNS

Social media, such as Instagram (27 per cent) and LinkedIn (20 per cent) were seen as fuelling increased comparisons. More than two-thirds (69 per cent) said those sites make it ‘easier than ever before’ to compare yourself to others – even if you don’t work with them.

Toxic workplace culture (57 per cent), poor work life balance (52 per cent) and a sense of worthlessness (34 per cent) were the main reasons people would consider leaving a job.

And as a result of their work environment, three-quarters of the population are experiencing problems such as trouble sleeping, stress, lack of confidence and loss of interest.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The AXA Mind Health study found more than half of the UK are currently not in a positive state of mental wellbeing, and an increasing number of people are suffering from a mental health condition (37 per cent, up 33 per cent in 2022) – with just 18 per cent flourishing.

More than a quarter (28 per cent) feel a career choice has had a negative impact on their mental health and of these, 49 per cent regretted an increased workload, and 26 per cent found themselves comparing themselves to colleagues more than before.

Outside of the workplace, 36 per cent of respondents who compare themselves to others do so with friends, while 17 per cent feel in competition with siblings.

But far from feeling happy (four per cent) or motivated (five per cent) when comparing their work achievements with others, adults are more likely to feel unsuccessful (12 per cent) or frustrated (seven per cent).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Triggers for feelings of comparison come when hearing about colleagues being praised (28 per cent) followed by learning about promotions (25 per cent) and pay rises (24 per cent).

The figures also found 29 per cent believe comparison is ‘increasingly rife’ in the workplace, while 17 per cent think job titles should be done away with, to reduce a sense of hierarchy.

Tara Foley added: “We know that the environment you create for people to work in is important and we strive to create a workplace that fosters positive mind health by providing mental health support and strong employee networks.

“This helps prevent people from struggling with their mind health, enables them to recognise when they need support and provides them with tools to enable them to move towards a more positive state of mind. We hope the AXA Mind Health Study will shine a spotlight on the impact that poor mind health is having and demonstrate why identifying mind health issues early can be beneficial not only for individuals, but businesses too.”

Top ways workers have compared themselves to others

  1. Job performance
  2. Work ethic
  3. Work-life balance
  4. Productivity levels
  5. How much I earn
  6. Stress levels
  7. Career progression
  8. Level of recognition
  9. General levels of happiness
  10. Leadership skills
  11. Dress sense
  12. How I look
  13. Influence in the workplace
  14. Fitness levels
  15. Level of education
  16. Overall level of success
  17. Creativity
  18. Job titles
  19. Rapport with senior stakeholders
  20. Number of friends

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.