Whether you’re the offending party or the object of someone’s envy, this is how to prevent it from derailing your career.
All of us feel it at some point: Envy. Though it's a natural human emotion, it can escalate and even derail your career if it seeps into your job. Understanding how to deal with envy isn't exactly easy, but it's necessary.
In some instances, you might be the object of someone's envy—maybe you nabbed a big promotion. In other cases, you might be the envious person—if your coworker got tapped for a plumb assignment you've been dreaming of. In either scenario, these tense feelings can damage work relationships, disrupt teams, and undermine job performance.
What Is the Difference Between Envy and Jealousy?
Before we go any further, be careful not to confuse jealousy with envy; they're two very different things. With jealousy, you have something (usually a relationship) and feel threatened of losing it to a third party.
So, what is envy? It's your desire to have something that another person possesses. You'd be jealous if someone flirted with your significant other, but you'd be envious of your sister's awesome new job.
Want to know how to deal with envy? Start by checking your ego at the door, but that's easier said than done. These steps will help you tame the beast and avoid making enemies at work. (Original article available here.)
How to Deal With Envy in 4 Steps
1. Fess Up
Before you can do anything to mend the situation, you have to admit that you're envious. Own your feelings in order to start dealing with them. It's OK to want a coworker's success for your own, but you have to confront your envious feelings before they turn into resentment.
2. Congratulate the Coworker
Part of being a good coworker is celebrating your peers ' achievements. Let's say Jane got a promotion and you didn't. Instead of stewing over your loss, congratulate her—ideally in front of your other coworkers. That kind of behavior will help cement your relationship with Jane (instead of tarnishing it) and lay the groundwork for her to reciprocate when you reach accomplishments in the future.
3. Make Top Performers Your Mentors
A great strategy for overcoming envy is to treat high achievers as potential mentors rather than opponents. Leveraging relationships with top-performing peers can help improve your skills. Also, simply being associated with the cream of the crop can boost your reputation—and having that kind of positive image can help you get noticed by company brass.
4. Keep Your Work Life Away From Your Personal Life
Job envy can spill over into your life outside of work if you let it consume you. A University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business study, which looked at the effects of envy in the workplace, found that negative feelings were carried home with the envious party, went to bed with them, woke up with them, and stuck with them into the following day, ultimately wasting their valuable time and hindering their productivity. Don't let that happen. Keep your work life separate from your personal life.
If You're the Object of Someone's Envy
1. Assess Your Culpability
If you think a coworker is envious of you and the person is lashing out, start by taking a step back and looking in the mirror. You may be fueling the person's envy if you're always tooting your own horn, sucking up to the boss, or coming across as a know-it-all.
Wondering how to deal with envy from this angle? Save the brag-a-thon for after work—don't name-drop that you had lunch with the CEO, bonded with your boss over drinks, or talk excitedly about your big raise with coworkers.
2. Approach the Person Directly
Envy can drive people to behave badly, which means you may become the victim of gossip, exclusion, or even sabotage. Serious offenders should be dealt with one-on-one. Say to the person, "You seemed a little upset with me at the morning meeting. I really value our relationship, so I wanted to check in. What's going on?"
Worried about how the person will react? Take a less confrontational approach. Ask if you did something to offend them, and offer to talk about how you could work together better.
In most cases, having a calm conversation with the person will disarm them, de-escalate the situation, and enable you and your colleague to find a mutually agreeable way of moving forward. If you have trouble resolving the issue on your own, your manager may need to become involved.
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