5 Ways Complete Strangers Impact Your Career

Many of us worry that we will miss out on a promotion because one of our coworkers will outshine us, or we worry that our bosses won’t like our work and we’ll get fired or we will never be able to move up. However, sometimes it isn’t someone we personally know who endangers or impacts our career but a complete stranger, instead.

While your coworker might outshine you in some ways, you usually will have time to try to improve your work. On the other hand, a complete stranger could apply for a position in your company, come in with more experience and better skills than you, and quickly swoop in and take your job before you even know it’s in danger. If you regularly work with customers, those customers’ ability to impact your morale is also significant. Here are five situations in which strangers can impact your career.

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They do your job better than you

Different employees have various skills, so you are bound to work with someone who has certain skills that you don’t have. Work competition can be fierce, and at times it can be extremely stressful. Sometimes, a complete stranger can have just as much of an impact on your career as your coworkers. Your boss may start looking for someone to replace you and find someone who is more talented and more skilled than you are.

Occasionally employers post for a specific job but end up running across someone who has the skills necessary to succeed at a completely different position, in which case your job might be in jeopardy. There’s little you can do to protect yourself against this situation, except try to do your best at your job and attempt to improve your skills whenever possible.

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They compete with your company

If you work for a company that faces a lot of competition, strangers might threaten your job simply by providing a product or service for a lower price or at a better quality than the company you work for.

If you own your own business, you will have a lot more riding on the success of the business than an employee would. According to The Wall Street Journal, small businesses can compete with bigger competitors by focusing on strengths that big businesses often can’t provide, such as handling customer requests. You can also consider creating an alliance with other small businesses. It also helps to make your service or product unique and to try to be flexible.

They complain about your work

Another way that a stranger can impact your career is by complaining about your work. Whether you directly interact with customers face-to-face, on the phone, or you simply produce work that people outside the company you work for can see, strangers often have the ability to comment on your work. This means that if you really upset a customer or client, either by something you said or did, or by producing work that they don’t deem sufficient, your boss might be unhappy.

If this happens enough times, your job could be in danger and your career could be affected. You may never even hear about most complaints, but if your boss starts to receive a lot about you or your work in particular, or receives an extremely detrimental complaint, the consequences can be serious.

They destroy your morale

In addition to complaining to your boss, strangers can directly impact your career by lowering your morale. If your job requires a lot of customer interaction, you may be feeling the stress. A particularly angry or mean customer can ruin your day, but if you face these customers every day, it can eventually affect your morale. You may feel too depressed to stay at your job or do a good job while you work.

According to a study in Personnel Psychology, emotional labor — for example, putting on a certain demeanor for customers — can also affect a worker’s home life. The study found a connection between acting an expected way at work and insomnia and anxiety at home.

They deem you unnecessary

Occasionally companies bring in extra help to evaluate how they can cut costs or let go of workers who are not necessary. In this case, you might be evaluated based primarily on your specific job duties and abilities. To someone who doesn’t know you personally, you make look dispensable, especially if there are multiple people who do the same job that you do.

Even if you are given the opportunity to meet with the person doing the evaluating, he or she may not learn enough about you to evaluate you fairly past what’s seen on paper. Sometimes decisions are simply made because money has to be saved, in which case a stranger might cost you your job.

Sometimes a similar result can occur when companies merge, or when a company has new ownership. The new owner may have employees who he or she already trusts and values, and you may be let go of with little or no consideration of whether your work is valuable, simply because there isn’t room for you. Although many companies try to avoid this issue, sometimes people do lose their jobs.

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