Mary Johnson works at Acme Corporation, where she has been employed as an accounting clerk for three years. Mary has always excelled at her job and has been recognized for the work she does. But lately, Mary has not been enjoying her job and has found that she is becoming disengaged and angry. Both her boss and her family noticed that she was “irritable” and seemed to be “stressed”; however, Mary did not see herself that way. At the urging of her husband, Mary decided to use her Employee Assistance benefits and talk to someone as she was having difficulty sleeping and focusing on her work. What ws uncovered was that two of Mary’s newer co-workers were acting differently towards her – they were withholding needed paperwork, or were slow in getting it to her, and she found them making snide comments. Mary denied doing anything that would lead them to treating her this way, other than being efficient in her work and getting noticed by her upper management.
This scenario is more common in the workplace than one would think. Mary was a victim of workplace jealousy, where a coworker feels inferior while believing they are superior. Perhaps they are not getting the recognition they want; they may feel that their talents are better than another; or it could be that one moves up the ladder more quickly. Whatever the situation, dealing with workplace jealousy can be difficult. Typically, by the time it is recognized the target is an emotional wreck. Here are 3 tactics to help deal with a jealous coworker (yes, it may be your boss):
1. Destress and deep breathe – take time to find ways to get rid of the stressful, angry, sad or anxious feelings; go for walks, find a punching bag or something to hit, scream, journal and then, once your emotions are vented, use deep breathing techniques to calm your mind and body
2. Reflect back – review instances where you felt you were targeted to “see” the situation in a different manner. Often, when we are emotional we can inflate the situation; when you are calmer you may see the actions differently. Reflect on your behaviors to ensure you didn’t contribute to the situation, even inadvertantly
3. Recognize that jealousy is the other person’s issue, not yours. Jealousy is really a sign of insecurity or fear; using empathy can help you to try to understand why the person may be threatened by you and can soften your anger.
Once you have reflected and debriefed, come up with some ways to defuse the person. It can be complementing them on their hair, dress or their work, or perhaps including them in workplace activities. When you take control of the situation, you will feel less affected and can extinguish the behaviors, leading you to feel relaxed and productive.