Have you ever felt envious of one of your coworkers? Maybe that person seems to have everything – money, charm, status, and the perfect home life. They might learn new information quickly, get constant praise from your boss, and have pictures scattered around their office that show them doing exotic things like climbing Mount Everest or swimming with sharks. Even if you like the person, you still might be gritting your teeth with envy.

Envy is an emotion that we feel when someone else gets something that we want. We’re all likely to feel envious now and then. It’s especially likely to crop up when things seem uncertain or chaotic at work. If you feel like you’re competing with your coworkers for limited resources, envious feelings will almost certainly exist.  

Unfortunately, these feelings can be really damaging — not only to the person who feels envious, but also to the entire team. The person who’s envious will feel angry, stressed, and dissatisfied about the fact that they haven’t been able to achieve the same things as their coworker. This could cause their work to suffer. In addition, the envious person may not want to communicate or collaborate with their coworker. This could have a negative impact on the team’s ability to work together, innovate, and get things done.

So what should you do if you find yourself feeling envious of a coworker? How can you banish this damaging emotion? Authors Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson suggest that you take the following steps:

  • Figure out what’s causing your envious feelings – Try to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your envy. Is it the fact that your coworker has such a good relationship with your boss? Or that your coworker has a more important position in the company? Once you’ve figured out exactly what’s causing your envy, you’ll be better able to control that emotion. You’ll also be able to start working on achieving those things yourself.
  • Focus on yourself rather than other people – Don’t compare yourself to other people. Since you don’t know everything about your coworker (and the problems or insecurities that they might have), it’s impossible to make an accurate comparison. And it will always make you feel lousy. Instead, focus on yourself, and compare your present self to your past self. Have you accomplished things over the past six months? Are you in a better position now than you were a year ago? If so, you should feel good about that! If not, it’s something you can work on.
  • Think about your strengths and accomplishments – When you start to feel envious, try to stop yourself, and think about your strengths and the wonderful things that you’ve accomplished instead. Thinking about your own positive qualities will help you to overcome any feelings of resentment that you might have for your coworker.

Menon, T. & Thompson, L. (2010, April). Envy at work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2010/04/envy-at-work

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