How to deal with green-eyed monsters in the workplace.
We’ve found a good article on Inc.com examining how #envy can be damaging in the office, affecting how employees feel about themselves and work together. But before we get onto the details, let’s clear up the difference between #jealousyand envy.
According to Professor Richard H. Smith, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky:
- Envy is wanting something that someone else has.
- Jealousy is when something we already possess (often a relationship) is threatened by a third person.
Both jealousy and envy happen at work and they can find themselves intertwined. You’d be jealous if you felt a co-worker was muscling in on your relationship with the boss and threatening your position; that’s the #greeneyedmonster raising its head. However you’d be envious if your co-worker was singled out for praise and made to look good.
The article says that #envy can happen when bosses do things like hand out employee of the month awards, set up performance competitions or create a public ‘forum for comparison‘. When you were at school did you ever have the fewest gold stars on the wall? It wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world.
So what can employers do to minimise envy?
Make it clear why people are being rewarded and why. If workers don’t understand what they have to do to be rewarded, or why someone else was, it leaves room for doubt and gossip to creep in.
Remind employees you’re all in it together. By stressing the importance of sharing collective goals, you remind staff to focus on what’s good for all, not just good for one. (A bit like the musketeers.)
Make them understand the enemy is outside. OK, maybe ‘enemy’ is too strong a word, but if employees feel they are competing against other companies, they won’t feel like they’re in a battle with their teammates.
Finally, remember that envy and jealousy are also projected. What you’re feeling may be more about yourassumptions and how you view the world, than what’s actually happening. Is your colleague really moving in on your boss? Has a workmate really been rewarded unfairly?
Whenever you feel #envious or #jealous, try to take a step back from those emotions and look at them from a different angle. Jot down evidence for and against what you’re feeling and see what the list looks like. You might find things aren’t as bad as they seem.