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Contain runaway envy

Reframe your jealousy as admiration

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in Office Management

Admit it—you get jealous sometimes. You see a co-worker who possesses a strength you lack, and you wish you had the same ability.

The worst response is probably the most common: You stew. Mild jealousy turns into palpable rage whenever the individual demonstrates the skill you wish you could master.

This downhill spiral certainly won’t help you win friends or advance your career. To break free, you need to transform your negative emotions into positive ones. But before proposing solutions, let’s diagnose the problem. Here are three clues that your envy has reached code-red levels:

You can’t stop talking about the other person. “I was like a broken record,” a media buyer tells us. “I just couldn’t stop talking about Ron, who sat across from me. He made [the job] look so easy. I would go home and tell my husband, my friends, even my book club! I’d relate everything to Ron because I wanted to do as well as him.”

You start acting like the other person. If you’re envious and a bit insecure, you might start subverting your natural personality in favor of trying to mimic the individual. You use his speech patterns, facial expressions and mannerisms.

You undercut your own abilities. When envy takes hold, it becomes hard to assess your strengths fairly. You figure that no matter how well you perform, your star colleague will do better.

If the above symptoms sound familiar, try these solutions:

Befriend the person. Envy usually takes hold from a distance. When you get to know someone as a fully dimensional human being, you tend to view them more realistically, with all their frailties.

Focus on what you can control. Because you cannot control someone else’s actions, giving them too much thought wastes your mental energy. Instead, isolate one skill or attitude that you admire in someone else and use it to find your own way to excel. Example: If you envy a salesperson’s persistence to bounce back from rejection and land big accounts, put an hourglass by the phone. Whenever you finish a call, turn the hourglass over and force yourself to make another call before the sand runs out.

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