Dealing with Jealous Feelings in the Workplace

Anyone who has felt even a hint of jealousy – and most of us have – knows that it’s like a curse. The moment it takes hold, it doesn’t hesitate to create a toxic work environment filled with resentment and hostility. But as a natural human emotion, that’s unavoidable, right? Not necessarily – if you become afflicted with feelings of jealousy due to a fellow employee obtaining success you think you deserve, there are steps you can take and strategies you can use to vanquish it, or at least shift things in a more positive direction.

One of the worst things about jealousy is the sheer amount of mental energy that gets wasted because of it. Actions that emerge from jealous feelings like doing things out of spite or spending time sulking don’t just have a negative effect on your organization’s morale, they take up so much of your own time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere. If you’re feeling jealous of a coworker because they received a promotion over you or they seem to get praised more for their work, you can always choose productivity over negativity when it comes to how you react to the situation. One healthy reaction is taking the opportunity to analyze why you feel the way you do. Breaking things down may help you realize that whatever accolades you are jealous of actually make sense given the situation and don’t necessarily call for jealousy. Let’s say a coworker who has been at the company just as long as you have receives a promotion before you do, and are now higher up the ranks even though you’ve been working there the same amount of time. While your gut reaction may be to assume that management thinks your counterpart is better than you or has more inherent value as an employee, that may not be the case at all. It might just be that the job opening was more closely attuned to their specific duties, and your chance for growth will come later when a similar opportunity arises that you are a better fit for.

Even if you come to the conclusion that a coworker you are jealous of is having more triumphs come their way because there are things you can improve on, you can still respond in a manner that is positive and proactive without dwelling on your shortcomings. Use it as an opportunity to grow as a professional – communicate with your managers about opportunities for career development and what changes you can make to perform your job more effectively. Communication is equally important in the event that your jealousy is completely valid and someone is being given more recognition for unfair reasons like favoritism. Allocating your energy toward voicing these concerns to management as opposed to keeping quiet and stewing in anger is tremendously beneficial for yourself and your organization. Hopefully, it will influence your managers to rethink the grounds by which they reward employees, creating a more fair-minded environment for yourself and your coworkers.

Jealousy happens. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we can’t stop ourselves from experiencing these feelings every once in a while. We can manage them, however, and work toward a more positive outcome. The most important thing to remember is that your coworkers are your teammates, not your competitors.

Ever dealt with jealousy at work? Feel free to share your experiences.