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Jealousy and Envy: The Hidden Barrier in the Workplace
05/03/2017 John Grubbs

It cannot be seen, proven, or even confirmed.  Only the person feeling jealous knows the truth. Most people feeling jealous will not admit it so how do you know and what can you do?

 “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” 1 Corinthians 3:3

 In a recent Fortune Magazine article, Megan Hustad says “Competitive feelings can spark intense rounds of self-reflection. We see someone whose career is taking off and then ask ourselves what fatal flaw prevents us from generating the dazzling output they do. Either we’re not talented enough, or, worse, we are too lazy, shy, or contrarian to capitalize on it.”


In a Harvard Business Review article, Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson say “People also tend to distance themselves from the objects of their envy. Though friendly competitors challenge each other, enviers have difficulty learning from and collaborating with others. That can lead to disruptions or oversights at work. In one technology company we studied, managers who felt threatened by another group’s idea simply ignored it. At one investment bank, a senior banker was so envious of a colleague’s position and power that instead of talking to the colleague directly, he communicated through a go-between.”


Following are 6 ways to deal head on with Jealousy at work:


  1. Look for indicator words or phrases such as: It’s not fair.  He’s the favorite. She doesn’t like me. Look what I did.  He makes it look easy.  It is my turn. I am next in line.  Did you hear about her?


  1. Have a “carefrontation” with the suspected jealous individual. Respectfully remind them that you are happy for the other individual and that you are proud of their success.  Be kind and strong while deflecting the emotion.


  1. Celebrate the source of the jealousy without comparing them to others. Make a big deal of success as an opportunity for others to do the same.  Let others know that they too can be a success.


  1. Focus on leading indicators rather than trailing indicators. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes the incredible hard work most extremely successful people have put in at the time of success.  He describes the 10,000 hours (~10 years) that often predicate an opportunity for success.  Help the jealous individual see what it takes to be successful.  For example, if someone is jealous of another’s body, focus their energy on the many hours they probably spend at the gym.


  1. Do not ignore a jealous situation. If you are in a leadership position and see jealousy among subordinates, address it immediately.  Confront it head on for the benefit of the organization and others in the group.  Pull them aside and discuss the actual behavior in private.


  1. Use jealousy as a catalyst for improvement. Use envy to show potential rewards.  Let the “hater” know that you expect them to do the same things in order to get better.


Digging deep with our team when normal human emotions arise is a skill managers often lack.  With practice and a little coaching, executives can better discern the emotions that kill productivity, collaboration, and teamwork in organizations.

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