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How to Handle Jealousy on the Job

How to Handle Jealousy on the Job

By Heather Boerner

If there's one thing Johanna Rothman knows, it's the corrosive effects of jealousy. At 30, the author of Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management was incensed when a coworker got a job she wanted. Later, when she took a job managing former peers, she felt their jealousy in curt, backhanded compliments. 

"If you can admit you're jealous, you can start dealing with it," says Rothman. "If you don't, jealousy can poison your relationships."

Jealousy can also poison your career by distracting you from your job and forcing you into constant comparisons that leave you demoralized, she says.

Want to curb your or others' jealousy while keeping your eye on your goals? Consider these tips:

If You're Jealous 

  • Track Your Accomplishments: Do a month-by-month resume for the past year, Rothman advises. "When I did this, I saw that there was a real theme: It was all about the project and nothing about the people," she says. "It was clear I really wasn't ready to be a manager."
  • Talk to Your Boss: Bring your monthly resume to your boss. Show him your skills and ask why you didn't get the promotion, says Rothman. Be clear that you're doing this because you want the promotion or raise next time.

    "My boss had no idea how productive I'd been," she recalls. "I learned to keep updating my resume and to inform my boss of what was going on regularly. In a few months, a bigger job opened up and I got it. My boss realized I was perfect for it."
  • Develop Your Skills: Ask the person you envy how she learned to do what she does, and beef up your skill set. Then it's not about her anymore -- it's about developing your career.

    "It turns out my new boss was the best manager I'd ever had," says Rothman. "But if I admitted, 'Look, Johanna, you're jealous,' I wouldn't have been able to work with her."

If You're the Object of Another's Jealousy 

  • Save the Brag-athon for After Work: "It's often not the closer relationships with bosses, the promotions or the raises that create hostility," explains Tina Lewis Rowe, a career coach in Denver. "It's the way the employee with good fortune handles it."

    Don't name-drop that you had lunch with the CEO, mention the conference you're attending, or talk excitedly about your new job or salary with less-fortunate coworkers. "Even a saint would have trouble smiling and being happy for someone in those circumstances," she says.
  • Don't Apologize: It's natural to feel humbled by a wonderful career development, but those who didn't get the raise don't want to hear how undeserving you feel, said Lewis Rowe. Chances are, they might agree. 
  • De-escalate Tension: If you're a new manager for former peers, encourage your new staff's strengths. "You need to know what to do to make all the people [in your department] stars," Lewis Rowe says. "I was always finding the most successful people and promoting them out from underneath me. That's an accomplishment that the employee and the manager can agree they did together."

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