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How should we deal with jealousy in the workplace?


By Jennifer McShane
01st Jul 2019
How should we deal with jealousy in the workplace?

When it comes to our working life, we talk a great deal about the positive emotions and outcomes that go along with those professional surroundings; we gleefully speak of smashing glass ceilings and climbing up the career ladder. However, rarely do we speak of the more negative emotions we can feel in the office, professional jealousy being a very common – and very legitimate – one.

Much of this stems from the fact that we are women, and any sort of openness when it comes to discussing what are natural feelings of negativity is seen as being calculated, catty and pulling a Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada. Essentially, to even mention the green-eyed monster amongst women in the workplace is cultivating a gender stereotype that only women get labelled with. At its most basic level, it starts with the language we use when talking about women versus men in the world of business. Men are ambitious, enigmatic – they persevere and go after their professional dreams with ease. And as such, they can frequently discuss things like feeling jealous of another colleague as a form of office ‘banter’ and have this casually pushed aside.

Women, in the same breath, are deemed difficult, and power-hungry for wanting to succeed in the same way; to admit feeling envious of another female colleague has a lot of shame attached to it in the way it simply hasn’t for a man.

So, how can we deal with our feelings of envy in the office, and even perhaps discuss them in a more open and even positive manner? Career & Coaching Psychologist Sinéad Brady of workstyle.ie offers her expertise and five things we can do to help.

1. Look at your own goals

Sinéad says that when you find yourself feeling jealous, the first step is to allow yourself to feel that emotion – without feeling bad about doing so – and then to reflect on your own goals. “Our comparison culture means that it’s perfectly natural to look at another colleague and feel envious, but you have to allow yourself to feel that – it’s a normal emotion, just as happiness is. Then, the key is to figure out why you feel as you do, by looking at your own goals. Are you where you feel you should be? Are you taking valuable steps to meet those goals? If you feel your own progress is lacking, it’s normal that you will look at another colleague and feel you’ve been left behind.”

2. Look at your career achievements to date

“The next step is to ask yourself, ‘how can I be the best version of myself?’ and look at the career achievements you’ve made thus far that have helped you do this. You’ll soon realise that you’ve probably accomplished far more than you think you have and that should, at the very least, ease some of the feelings of uncertainty about your own situation. Then, ask yourself how can I keep moving forward and achieving my goals?”

3. Set yourself a ‘100-day challenge’

“Give yourself 100 days, just over three months to try and reverse the feelings of envy. You can do this by taking small steps each week, whether it means finishing big projects, ticking items off your professional to-do list that you’re really proud of – doing anything that makes you feel good about yourself; that you’re being the best version of you, you can be within that time frame.”

4. Go to your boss

“Then, once you’ve done this go to your direct manager or boss and have a frank conversation about your progress and where you want to go within the company. It’s here you should lay out your goals and where you see yourself growing within the organisation. This should help the feelings of envy decrease; once you’re certain you’re on the right path for your goals, you’ll care less about your colleague’s accomplishments.”

5. Apologise

“Finally, if you know that you’re the person who has possibly let their feelings of jealousy create a toxic or difficult working environment between you and a colleague, it is absolutely worth being frank and offering an apology. Even something casual, saying ‘look, things have been a bit difficult for me and I apologise if that has made you feel uncomfortable.’  It’s never worth letting a toxic atmosphere fester. Or, if you feel you can’t apologise, actions speak louder than words. Support your colleague, offer her encouragement and help and show her you’re there as her teammate.”

Main photograph: Pexels


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