I used to proudly broadcast that I wasn’t a jealous person. “I’m confident, successful, and happy,” I’d think to myself, while flipping my hair over my shoulder and batting my eyelashes (not really, but you get it). “I have no reason to be envious of anybody!” But, then I quickly realized I was only lying to myself.
No, I’m not necessarily jealous in the sense that I can’t let my husband leave the house for a few hours without feeling the itch to constantly check in—he can grab a few beers with his buddies without me so much as even noticing at times. But, when it comes to my career success? Well, I become downright covetous.
To a certain extent, I think that’s natural. Our careers are competitive, so it’s expected that you’ll turn a little green with envy each time someone else reaches an achievement you’ve been working toward yourself.
But, while a little bit of jealousy is anticipated, it’s still not necessarily productive. On the contrary, really—it can serve as a distraction that only slows you down. That is, unless you learn to harness it to give yourself a much-needed kick in the pants.
Sound impossible? I assure you, it’s not. To prove it, here are three times you’re sure to feel jealous in the office, as well as how you can use each one to boost your own motivation and reputation.
1. When Someone Else Scores a Promotion
Your co-worker was just promoted. And, while it’s not even a position you were in line for, you can’t help but to feel a twinge of jealousy at the very thought of her pay increase and shiny new job title.
Sure, you respond to that office-wide email thread with a hearty, “Congratulations, Ashley!” and gladly indulge in a piece of that celebratory cake in the break room. But, on the inside? That green-eyed monster is slowly consuming you.
“When is it my turn?” you ponder to yourself as you pack up that leftover cake and stick it in the fridge, “I deserve a step up around here, too!”
How to Leverage Your Jealousy
There’s nothing that can inspire an intense bout of envy quite like someone else in your workplace getting promoted. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t up for consideration or the new role isn’t even in your department—everyone in your office will suddenly feel slighted.
But, rather than wallowing in your own self pity and dreaming of the days you’ll get your own delicious “way to go!” ice cream cake, you’re better off analyzing the situation to determine what steps you’ll need to take to reach that same milestone.
Was that newly promoted person there for a certain amount of time? Did he go above and beyond what was expected of him—such as frequently volunteering for the company’s blood drive? Did he recently reach some major achievement that served as the catalyst for this next step?
Yes, you’re allowed to feel a little envious. But, once you’ve taken a moment, set those feelings aside and take a good, hard look at the situation to determine what exactly you need to do to follow in those footsteps.
2. When Your Colleague Receives Praise
You’re in a team meeting when your supervisor openly compliments your co-worker, Rebecca, on a job well done. “Kudos to Rebecca for churning out such a top-notch report under such a tight deadline,” he says in front of your entire team.
But, what do you actually hear? Likely a little something like, “Rebecca is the greatest employee this company has ever had, and she’s putting the rest of you low-life schmucks to shame around here.”
Whenever someone else in your office receives recognition—be it praise or an official award—it’s only natural to feel a little envious of her success. But, there’s something better you could be doing with your time and energy.
How to Leverage Your Jealousy
First things first, make sure you recognize your co-worker’s hard work as well. You may be jealous, but you still want to be an encouraging team player.
What next? Resist the urge to go head-to-head to this person. That type of passive-aggressive approach will only breed tension, and likely only make you look a little on the crazy side.
Instead, your best course of action is to file this person away as a resource who you can lean on when you’re feeling stuck or have specific questions. Obviously, Rebecca knows what it takes to not only get a project done—but get it done well. So, rather than resenting her for that, why not learn from her?
Do that and you’ll instantly turn the tables—a situation that previously existed to eat away at your confidence will now actually help you to continuously improve.
3. When Your Co-worker Lands a Big Project
Your department is responsible for handling a ridiculously daunting project, and your boss is keeping his eyes peeled for one of you to spearhead the entire thing. You’re absolutely sure that you’ll be the chosen one who earns that coveted spot.
So, when your boss announces that Jason will be leading the charge, you’re understandably surprised. This project is make or break—how could he possibly entrust it to Jason? What does he have that you don’t have?
We’ve all been there. Even if you didn’t particularly want the assignment (it means extra work, after all), you still feel as if your boss should’ve been knocking at your door just begging you to take it on.
But, that’s not the way things played out. And, now you’re left feeling envious of Jason—the one who apparently proved himself worthy enough of such a large responsibility.
How to Leverage Your Jealousy
So, you weren’t picked to head up the entire project. Yes, that’s a bit of a blow to your ego. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be involved and prove that you’re a worthwhile member of the team.
If the task is truly that important, Jason is likely going to need (and desperately want) some extra help. So, drop those feelings of resentment, step up to the plate, and offer to take on some additional work.
You’ll strengthen a relationship with your teammate, get to learn some new things, and prove to your boss and co-workers that you’re willing to go the extra mile. With all of that, you’ll likely be the one gaining some well-deserved recognition soon.
We all feel jealous sometimes—particularly in our careers. But, just because it’s a natural emotion, that doesn’t necessarily make it beneficial.
So, the next time you feel envy taking over in the office, remember these three situations and do your best to rise above. In the end, you’ll be much better off.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of PhotoAlto/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author