How to Overcome Workplace Jealousy
You’re working at a job you love, and you’re currently up for a promotion. It’s between you and three other people, but you feel good about your chances. Soon enough, the big day comes, and just when you expect to hear some amazing news… you learn the promotion has been given to someone else. Not you, but your colleague.
Immediately, you’re jealous of your coworker. Questions race through your mind: what makes them so special? Why do they deserve what you worked so hard for? Are they better at what they do than you, or are you just not as good at your job as you thought you were?
This is a textbook example of workplace jealousy. Envy hits all of us at some point, but learning how to cope and grapple with it in a workplace setting is harder than it seems. That’s because — unlike sadness or anger — envy also comes with a lot of internalized shame. We hate our coworkers for getting what we wanted, and then we hate ourselves for hating them.
To move past workplace jealousy and learn how to stop being jealous of coworkers, it takes patience, skill and several important coping techniques. Let’s go over some ways to stifle your office envy and redirect that energy more positively going forward.
But first? We need to understand what can happen when workplace jealousy gets out of hand.
Make no mistake: a little bit of workplace competition can be a good thing. If you’ve established an office “rival” in your mind, wanting to surpass them can lead to innovations, new ideas and higher quality work. But once that rivalry crosses a line — when it becomes malicious, instead of amicable — it starts to impact your wellbeing.
Depending on what you’re envious about, the side effects of jealousy can quickly overwhelm your ability to function in an office setting. Being jealous of coworkers makes you more likely to distance yourself from those colleagues, and it also makes you more prone to questioning the legitimacy of the organization you work for. You might start to excuse others’ success as simply getting “lucky,” or chalk it up to workplace politics.
Studies show, however, that distancing yourself from coworkers can lead to opportunities lost and greater organizational inefficiency. Colleagues who distance themselves from each other end up doing less high-quality work for clients, and get less work done than coworkers who aren’t plagued by jealous thoughts. That’s not good for the company, and it’s also not good for your chances at clinching your own success down the road.
If you’d rather avoid the side effects of workplace jealousy, here’s some strategies to try.
First, pinpoint the source of your jealousy
Despite how terrible it feels to be envious of others, jealousy can actually be a useful tool for understanding yourself better. Instead of treating your envy as a source of shame or guilt, try looking at it as merely a tool for gaining more information. Things you’re jealous of are things you value, so knowing exactly what you’re jealous about can point you toward your own goals and desires.
Do you get upset when others learn how to complete tasks more quickly than you? Do you hate when your boss praises others? Are you mad that your salary isn’t as high as your colleague’s? Once you know exactly what you’re upset about, it’s easier to start reconsidering how you treat those feelings when they surface.
To stop your envy from becoming a bigger problem, look to improve your own skills in the areas that you’re insecure or upset about. Doing so can help you increase your own self-esteem and self-worth — and you’ll be less jealous when you start thinking of your jealousy merely as information to use, instead of a shameful response to someone else’s success.
Avoid affirmations and embrace realistic beliefs
A lot of self-help blogs try to tell people to use affirmations as a way to prevent jealousy. Some sites will recommend that you stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself “I’m the hardest working person I’ve ever met,” or “my boss thinks of me as their favorite.” Those statements might not sound bad — in fact, they sound wonderful — but if they’re not statements that you can actually believe in, they can do more harm than good.
For instance, if you tell yourself you’re the hardest working person you’ve ever met, but you can clearly see someone at the office who’s putting in more hours than you, you’re not going to actually believe yourself when you say it. In essence, sky-high affirmations lead to unrealistic portrayals of your life that make you even more despondent when you come to the conclusion they’re not true.
For these reasons, it’s best to avoid affirmations, and instead trade up to realistic beliefs that you can stand by. Try saying other positive things about yourself: “I’ve come such a long way in my career,” or “I know I’m going to get promoted when the time is right.”
Call yourself out on your own bull----.
Want to know something? In life, we invent a whole lot of things that just aren’t true. In particular, we often tell ourselves self-defeating lies that devalue who we are. When we’re envious of others, we start to say things like “maybe I didn’t get a raise because I’m just a terrible coworker,” or “I’m annoying, and that’s why I got passed up for the promotion.”
The truth is, all of that is a bunch of bull----. Every time you feel weak, small, pathetic or unsuccessful, remind yourself that your brain’s simply feeding you a heap of steaming bull----, and that you — the person in charge of your brain — can think other thoughts instead.
Instead of devaluing yourself when others succeed, remind yourself that what you’re doing is still very important. At the same time, remember that your colleagues’ successes are not your failures. When someone else does well at the office, everyone does well, because it means your organization is succeeding in its mission.
Practice emotional resilience
Do you know people in your life who bounce back quickly from failure? We like to say that people like that have a high level of “emotional resilience.” That means that they’re able to very quickly leverage their adversity and turn disappointments into opportunities.
The next time you’re feeling jealous of a coworker, try thinking of all the tools you have at your disposal to get out of your envy-funk. Will working harder help? Or will taking time away from work to enjoy other things you love, such as your friends and family, be more advantageous? Exploring all the tools you have at your disposal to rebound from negative emotions will help you hone your emotional resilience and approach envy in a healthier way.
Examine your expectations
When we expect a negative outcome, we often experience a negative outcome. That’s jealousy to a T: expecting someone else to succeed because they’re just “lucky” means we’ll often reinforce those negative and jealous feelings when others do succeed.
Instead of that, try going into situations with the expectation that something good will happen. Going into a situation with the expectation that things are going to turn out well, regardless of the situation, means we’re able to appreciate things exactly as they are, even if we didn’t get our “ideal” outcome from the start.
Okay. We’ve gone over a lot of anti-jealousy concepts in very little time. And the truth is that these tips aren’t going to stick if you don’t practice them. Un-learning envy is kind of like building up your muscles: you have to constantly exercise in order to stay strong. Instead of going to the gym, however, coping with jealousy is best done through journaling.
Journaling about your difficulties with jealousy can help you process your emotions, let go of negative feelings and focus on all the good things in your life. Creating journaling prompts that help you reexamine your expectations, build your emotional resilience, avoid unrealistic affirmations and pinpoint your jealousy are all great ways to tamp down your envy and live a better life.
Need a few journaling prompts to get you started? Try these:
- Write about the source of your jealousy, and pinpoint it as best you can
- List ten “realistic” affirmations about yourself
- Journal about why your coworkers’ success is good for you, too
- Jot down some of your unrealistic negative expectations and replace them with realistic positive expectations
- Write down all the bull---- you’ve told yourself about your self-worth, and then make a list of evidence that proves why your bull---- isn’t true
- Try journaling with a coach
That last bullet point is relatively new in the journaling world, but it’s done wonders for lots of people who’ve grappled with workplace jealousy. Two-way journaling with a coach means answering some of the prompts listed above and then having a certified advisor respond to those prompts with their own thoughts, questions and ideas.
The benefit is that rather than keeping all your pent-up feelings to yourself, you’ll be able to let them out to a trusted professional who’s interested in helping you move past your jealousy. Trust us — you’d be surprised at how much less daunting envy can be when you’re able to share your feelings without shame!
If coaching is something you’re interested in, head on over to our contact page to learn more about what we do, and why we might be helpful to you. Either way, we hope we’ve given you a few tools to properly handle your workplace jealousy with confidence.