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Business Expert Sees Growing "Comparison Obsession"

Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues—a "comparison obsession." He writes:

A former student of mine who graduated 10 years ago and has a terrific job at a Fortune 500 company still suffers from this comparison obsession. At least it seemed like a terrific job until she received her alumni newsletter and learned that a fellow alumnus, who was in the MBA program with her, had just been named VP at a Fortune 100 company. From that moment on, she could barely hold a conversation without bemoaning her lack of VP and Fortune 100 company status; on more than one occasion, she told others she felt like a failure.
More so than ever before … business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. Over the last five years, I have interviewed hundreds of HNAPs (high-need-for-achievement-professionals) about this phenomenon and discovered that comparing has reached almost epidemic proportions. This is bad for individuals and bad for companies—when you define success based on external rather than internal criteria, you diminish your satisfaction and commitment ….
It's telling that in my 500 interviews of "high-need-to-achieve-professionals" over the past three years, more than 400 of them questioned their own success and brought up the name of at least one other peer who they felt had been more successful than they were. Many of these individuals are considered among the best and the brightest, yet they are trapped by their comparing reflex.

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