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Ways to Deal with a Jealous Colleague

Business Communication 14th July 2015 Ruchira Karnik

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A large part of today’s workforce consists of mature working professionals (also jealous colleagues!) with brilliant educational degrees and impressive résumés. One would like to believe that with such a background, there would hardly be any scope for jealousy to crop up at the workplace. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that the green-eyed monster often crops up to wreak havoc in a healthy work environment. Employers must always be wary of this deadliest of negative emotions among their employees. It can turn into a serious issue for both employees and employers, dividing employees into groups and distracting people from work.

Jealousy essentially arises from a resentful longing for another person’s qualities, advantages or luck. It is not something that springs up automatically; there is always a spark that triggers off jealousy between colleagues. Studies in workplace psychology suggest that it is usually aggravated by low self-esteem and discontent with one’s situation.

Since workplace equations are very formal and delicate, here are some tips on what you can do to handle a jealous co-worker?

#1 Put yourself in their shoes

The first thing you should do once you detect signs of jealousy towards yourself from a co-worker is to put yourself in their shoes and envision their perception of you. Have you been promoted recently; are you so friendly with the boss that colleagues feel threatened; is your behaviour too uppity around colleagues? The reasons could be many and varied but that does not necessarily mean you have to change yourself. This step will help you assess your workplace personality and see where you can change things for the better. Additionally, it will also help you frame a response if and when the time comes for you to deal with this colleague.

#2 Take it lightly

Unless the co-worker’s jealously stems from your behaviour towards them (which is when the onus to change lies on you), take what they say or do lightly. Do not get worked up and stress yourself. After all, you got a promotion because you worked hard, not because lady luck smiled at you instead of them! This is the best time to remember that you have a sense of humour and use it to find amusement in this otherwise woeful situation. However, that does not mean you joke about it openly in front of the jealous colleague – that will only aggravate them further.

#3 Talk it out

Go up to this colleague and bring up the topic politely. Tell them you have noticed a change in their behaviour towards you and ask them the reason for it. If it is something that you have said or done unintentionally, tell them so and apologize. If it is something that is not in your hands (like a promotion or a project you bagged), explain how it was your hard work that earned it for you and in turn, encourage and motivate them to work harder . Acknowledge their positive qualities, give them credit where it’s due, and stay humble about your achievements

#4 Document it

There may be cases where the jealous colleague turns nasty and tries to sabotage your work or your image at work. In such a situation, quietly document each incident. Note down the date, time and details of each offense. If the situation turns very serious, you may be left with no option but to report it to your manager or Human Resources. Remember, it is going to be a case of your word against his. Therefore, gather as much proof as possible.

#5 Do not stoop low

Remember, you are a good person. Do not stoop to a level where you are no better than your jealous colleague. It is not a good idea to play tit for tat at the workplace and badmouth your colleague. Hold your head high and go about your work normally. Do not, for a moment, wallow in self-pity or let their jealousy make you feel insecure.


The author of the article is Co-founder of Work Better Training. Work Better Training is one of India’s fastest growing Executive Education and Training firm. The views expressed here are personal.

This article was first published in Business Today’s web exclusives. It can be found here.

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