Workplace Envy: How to Nip it in the Bud

The cause is less important than your reaction.

Relationships 22nd Dec, 2020

Workplace envy can be caused by a variety of reasons, many of which are subconscious. For example, low self-esteem, fear of change including a new member of staff or a change in role, or a lack of trust that management/colleagues treat all staff equally. The cause is less important than your reaction, if you go on the defence, or offence, it is far less likely to be resolved. Therefore, it is very useful to learn the signs of jealousy, that way you can modify your reaction as appropriate and perhaps open a meaningful discussion with your colleague.

workplace envy

The Signs of Workplace Envy:

The first sign that a member of staff is jealous of you is a change in behaviour. If someone is suddenly less friendly, reluctant to talk, or even rude, think about whether envy could be the cause. Have you been promoted, or singled out and rewarded for doing a good job? Perhaps you are moving departments, all these can be triggers. If so, a team mate may feel passed over, make it clear that you have loved working with them.

If possible buy everyone in the team some chocolates or bake something. This demonstrates that you care about them. Then start asking your colleague for their opinion on small sections of your work where appropriate, that way you are demonstrating you want to learn from them. Therefore, you do not believe you are better than them. This could gradually resolve the problem and allow you to go back to a good working relationship.

Another sign of professional envy is when a colleague ignores your ideas. This is often caused by them feeling threatened by you or your position. If you find yourself in this situation, indirectly address that fear, ask them for ideas and act on a couple of them, if you are a manager then share some of your resources. Once you are perceived as a potential ally, rather than a threat your colleague may start listening to you.

Something else to look out for is when one person from a team is singled out after a successful project. The rest of the team may feel everyone should be rewarded. If you are the staff member rewarded in this scenario then share the wealth. Even if you feel you deserve the reward, it will build better professional relationships with your colleagues in the long run, as you are seen as a fair person. If it isn’t something you can share then bring something in, a slice of cake can go a long way to show you care about fellow team members in this situation.

Perhaps you could send an email thanking the relevant manager and stating how the whole team pulled together for this project and how proud you are to be one cog in that wheel. The manager may then reward the rest of the team, or acknowledge their contribution, which could help reduce any envy.

Jealousy in the workplace also occurs between departments and managers. To avoid this, or address an issue that is already there, always share your resources. Whether it’s stationary or a multi million budget, if you start by being generous it reduces any potential jealousy and shows you are fair minded. In addition, this lays the groundwork for your colleagues to return the favour, which could be useful in the future.

As a manager, you also need to be aware of envy in your team, make sure you share your power where possible, perhaps by rewarding staff with additional responsibilities. Ensure you give credit to your staff where appropriate. In addition, think about the language you use, for example, only rewarding leadership doesn’t acknowledge that the team mates who followed were just as essential. Make sure you acknowledge both roles to avoid any jealousy developing.

Whether you are envious of somebody else, or they of you, it can lead to a toxic and difficult working relationship. Now you know the signs, if jealousy does rear its head, you can react appropriately, rather than being defensive because you don’t understand their behaviour. To reduce the chances of causing envy, try and treat others as you expect to be treated, regardless of how they treat you. This is not always easy, however it will help with many different situations. Be generous, show respect, make it clear you value people’s opinions and you will build much healthier professional relationships and quite possibly, a better career too.

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