How to Deal with Jealousy at Work

Introduction

Jealousy is part of our daily life. Sooner or later we will all experience it or find people who might be looking green with jealousy. It can be especially annoying in the work place. A colleague who is jealous of your job, your salary or even your age. As long as it remains with subtle envy, there is usually no problem. But what if the jealousy of your colleague is completely out of control? Then it could lead to many issues, most of them not good.  In this article I will firstly define jealousy and then go on to explain how you can deal with it at work. 

Definition of jealousy

Wikipedia defines jealousy is follows: ‘Jealousy is an emotion; the term generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, concern, and envy over relative lack of possessions, status or something of great personal value, particularly in reference to somebody else.’ Jealousy can result in a variety of emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness or disgust. It can affect you in two ways: you can be jealous of somebody or somebody is jealous of you.

Everyone wants to be seen, respected and valued. That is why we all suffer, from time to time, from the green monster: that gnawing sense of jealousy, which your minds say is nonsense to feel, but that is slowly starting to eat you from within. Especially at work such a feeling can bother you. You might perform less, so you may be in the picture even less.

Work situation

When you are speaking in the meeting, your boss looks at his smartphone. Your colleague gets the exciting assignments, you the routine jobs. That new employee who is just looking, gets the job you have been looking for for years. When that happens, it really starts to get to you. You start worrying, sleep less, reluctantly go to work, avoid your colleagues, and yes, they will try to avoid you.

Jealousy mainly affects the professional who always wants to understand exactly what is going on, and who has a good eye for detail. These are creatives who can solve problems well, but if something is unjust or offensive, they keep on pondering, so that the feelings of jealousy only become stronger and productivity decreases.

Fighting and fleeing

Experts say it corresponds to the neuro-biological insight that if emotions prevail, the defence system of fighting and flight is activated, and the rational brain is eliminated. So yes, you can still think that you should not be jealous, but if your brain is in the hands of the green monster, no sensible thought will help you.

Your rational brain will not work until the situation is psychologically safe for you. A nice word from a colleague, a compliment from your supervisor, or a very nice invitation for a conference that makes you feel extra appreciated, can help. That can put you back to your normal self and give you renewed energy for your work.

Your own jealousy

But what if that positive appreciation fails? If your boss sees more in your colleague than in you? How can you then ensure that you can regain access to your rational brain?

The first thing you have to do is step aside. Just get out of your emotion and put your brain on a different track. Go running or swimming instead of thinking about the unreasonable treatment by your boss. If you are distanced from the offence, you can focus your attention on your own values. What do you choose? What is your heart going for? What are you strong about? If you feel good about yourself, you can try and discuss with your boss. His rejection of you certainly says as much about himself as about you.

Focus on something that makes you happy, gives you energy. Drink coffee with a nice colleague and compliment him or her. You then no longer feel victim of unhelpful treatment, but focus on what you yourself have an influence on. And gone is the green monster.

For myself, having an attitude of accepting the things in any way they come, helps enormously. If I have a problem, I will try to solve it, but wen I cannot, I will accept and live by my decision. I mostly look at what I have and believe me, when you do, you will see that it is a lot already. In such a case the grass is never greener at your neighbour’s.

In an article on the website of the economics daily Financial Times, Rhymer Rigby, author of the book ‘The Careerist: About 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work’, gives a number of tips for dealing with jealous people.

1. You can avoid jealousy

Try to prevent jealousy from developing on the work floor. If you work in a team and everyone is competing for the same promotion, be humble and diplomatic if you end up with it. Do not deliberately oppose people and accept that some people are more jealous than others.

2. How do you deal with it?

It is important to make a distinction between jealousy that you are responsible for and those that you can not do anything about. Colleagues can not blame you for anything if you are younger or that you are more skilled in your job. Do not be fooled by envy that you really can not do anything about. So ask yourself to what extent you yourself contribute to that jealous behaviour. If the problem is your arrogance, because you clearly show that you earn more than your colleague, try to avoid it. Do not deliberately antagonise people but help them realise their own goals.

3. What if it continues?

Think carefully how hard that jealousy actually affects you. Does your daily job or an important relationship interfere? If so, engage in a private conversation with the person in question and try to involve as few other colleagues as possible. Control your emotions and choose the right moment. You can not start a proper conversation with someone who is angry. Let that jealous colleague tell his story. Then try to explain how you interpret his or her behaviour. Refer to a concrete example of jealousy instead of just saying that he or she is always jealous. That makes it easier to address the problem and is less accusatory.

4. What if you can not change anything?

Sometimes jealousy is very irrational and it is very difficult to change someone’s beliefs. However, it is not advisable to turn on higher channels, unless you can not do otherwise because the situation really gets out of hand. When you personally address that jealous colleague it shows professionalism and courage. Immediately going to your boss or HR, makes you look like a helpless child.

But if either way does not help improving your situation and you start hating your job, it is simply time to step away from it. After all, you do not want your health to be adversely affected. So, look around you and find another job or if that is not an option, here is one that I propose wholeheartedly: get away from the corporate jungle and start your own business.

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2 Replies to “How to Deal with Jealousy at Work”

  1. Hi Jerry:

    I know there have been many times in my life I was consumed by the green monster of jealousy. And, like you say, no matter how much the rational mind tries to tell me that it’s a useless emotion that’s actually hurting me, it never seems to help.

    Your post brings to mind a job I had back in the 90’s where I felt like an outsider and was jealous of the camaraderie of the rest of the staff.

    Thanks for your post. It will be good for everyone to read because all of us have experienced jealousy at one time or another.

    1. Chris, Sorrry to read that you have once been in a situation where you felt left out. But it happens to the best of us. It really seems that nobody can escape from jealousy, oh well we are all humans.

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