Professional Jealousy-Weathering the Storm

Have you ever encountered people in your life who were genuinely happy for your success? Having those people around foster a positive environment that benefits everyone.  It becomes easier to spot its opposite, when colleagues are jealous and try to undermine your success.

I recently worked with three different women in three different arenas who were experiencing people in their professional circles attacking them when they began to rise. The Australians call this the “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” described as the destructive action of envy in the workplace.  I have heard people in the States refer to the analogy of crabs in a pot. When crab begins to make progress toward the top of the pot, the other crabs pull that crab back down. Whenever I encounter three or more people in my work experiencing the same issue, I consider it a sign I should write about it. If three people in my practice are experiencing it, there must be others.

When you are successful, others often think it’s because you took a shortcut, happen to know someone, are wealthy or just plain lucky. (That is not to say this never happens because it does occasionally.) The haters rarely look to see all the work that goes into what you have accomplished. Somehow, people believe if you weren’t doing what you are doing, they would be doing it, but the reality typically is that you are successful because you plan, prepare and do the hard work to make it happen.

Just like the crabs in the pot, jealous people don’t want you to be successful unless they are successful too. Often, they just don’t have what it takes or they would already be doing what you are doing.

I have recently witnessed three clients with similar stories of jealous people attempting to destroy their professional lives. It is amazing how bitter, unfair and vicious people can be when someone has, or is doing, something they want to have or do. A good friend of mine once said to me, “There are times when I’m a little jealous of the opportunities that come your way, but then I think, would I want your life? Would I want to work as hard as you do? No, I don’t.” This person has a healthy, realistic attitude to prevent her from falling into workplace jealousy.

There are usually two parts to professional jealousy: you can experience one without the other or both together. There are verbal manifestations with people talking about you, starting rumors that aren’t true or putting their own slant on things they may only have partial information about. There can also be physical manifestations of this jealousy: lost friendships, reduced income and even loss of your job.

There are things you can do to help yourself in each situation. When the attacks are verbal, you need to be sure to practice self-evaluation. Start by asking yourself if there is any truth in what you are being accused of. Have you taken short cuts? Have you stepped on others to climb the corporate ladder? Have you been the recipient of undeserved favoritism? Has your situation afforded you opportunities not available to others who are equally, or even more, qualified? If you find there is legitimacy in the complaints, do what you can to fix them.

However, we’re often biased when trying to understand the perspective of others. If you determine there is nothing to the claims, I recommend talking with people you trust to see if they can understand the perspective of the jealous people. Ask those who can be impartial and help you see the things you may be unable to see. If this is successful, take reparative action.

If you find there is nothing to these claims but spiteful jealousy, you have three options: you can change it, accept it or leave it. There are two ways to change it: You can try to change the minds of your detractors or you can change your behavior. Go ahead and try to change others’ minds, but don’t get caught up in the outcome of your attempts. You have no control over how people perceive things; you can only make your best case. If you are successful, great. However, if you expect to be successful, you may find yourself quite disappointed. You may also work on changing yourself and the way you are doing things. This can help and you are 100% in control of your actions. My one caution is staying grounded in being the person you want to be and not diluting yourself and your impact to make other people comfortable. Do not get involved in tit-for-tat exchanges because you will end up disliking yourself.  Keep constant sight on who you want to be in the situation and choose thoughts and actions in line with being the best version of yourself. Also resist the desire to be less so others aren’t jealous anymore. You are a person who is creating an impact; this is what people see that sparks their jealousy. If you become less to satisfy others, you will be hurting those you serve. Please avoid this impulse and continue to serve others at the highest level you are capable.

The second option is accepting it. You may imagine the bell curve and remind yourself that it is impossible to satisfy all the people all the time. There will always be a handful of people feeling unhappy about what you do. When you are in the fire, that handful could feel like a mountain Remind yourself there’s a whole village of people who are happy about what you are doing and accept that handful as a normal part of the bell curve. You’ll find you can deal with it and continue the good work you are doing.

You can also accept the fact that your workplace environment has become toxic for you. Stop trying to fight it and make the decision to leave. Leaving can be done mentally and emotionally or physically. Mentally and emotionally leaving means checking out and simply going through the motions of doing your job. I don’t recommend this. You will not like the person you are when you don’t do your best. Sometimes physically leaving may be your best option. You can accept the situation as is and look at the resulting angst as the way the Universe is working to move you to an even better place. If you have a spiritual perspective about things, you can remind yourself that you have likely weathered worse things in your past and they lead to even better opportunities. If you trust the Universe, you can rest in the knowledge that the same is happening with this situation.

Finally, if your detractors generate enough support, you may find yourself losing friends, being demoted or even fired. If any of these happen, you have options. You can hire an attorney and fight the action. You can seek a severance package. You could leave gracefully and see it as an opportunity for bigger and better things. You may choose to stay but be asked to leave anyway. Any of these things can happen. I cannot advise which is the best solution for you. You need to consider your options and choose the best one for you.

If you are losing friends over jealousy, I would ask, were they really the good friends you thought they were? If so, how could they believe what is being said about you? I also know that as you rise, you will, by necessity, have to leave some people behind. It is sad when this happens, but people who are not vibrating at your frequency can’t go where you are going. While you are trying to take them along, they are holding  you back. You must free yourself, be grateful for the friendship you had during the time you had it and move forward, onward and upward, to new relationships vibrating at your current frequency.

All three of my clients were talented women who went through a painful period, experiencing a range of painful emotions: fear, anger, sadness, regret, frustration, misunderstanding, betrayal and even occasional paranoia. They didn’t know who they could trust. They went through the pain of being committed to what they believe, while recognizing others who were jealous and wanted to stop them. At times, it was excruciating.

As I helped them look for the GLOW (gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom), they discovered these initially painful experiences had positives attached. It’s challenging to see advantages when you are in the middle of the pain but it’s important to make a valiant attempt. Finding the perfect balance in the negative and positive in your situation will help you make the best next step. You won’t be held hostage by the negativity and risk becoming someone you do not recognize and don’t like.

Jealousy allows the playing out of the age-old script of good versus evil. When jealous people begin to act on their envious feelings, they resort to devious methods to accomplish their goal of hurting the person they think has hurt them. The natural inclination is to get in the mud with them to protect what’s yours. However, this revenge motivation will not work in your favor. It will only cause you, who have done nothing wrong, to attract more negative energy into your life.

Once you have an answer to that question, do not allow anyone or anything to cause you to deviate from that vision. When you allow a jealous person to stop you from being the person you want to be, that person wins. It provides the jealous person with evidence that what they are saying about you is true.

Stay your course by being who you want to be, focus on the benefits that will come from the situation and trust that if you are on the side of good, you will prevail in the end.

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