How To Quell Your Professional Jealousy (It's Normal, Btw)

We've all been there — working up to and beyond our limits. We show up early and stay late. We take files home with us. We come to work when we should be in bed healing from an illness. We sacrifice and invest our energy and time, skills and passions day by day by day, all in the hopes that our efforts will pay off. And when we least expect it, the company rewards another colleague. Ouch. But it's fine! We are totally fine! But then comes the achy gut from the little devil on our shoulder whispering, "It should have been you..." Double ouch.

Feeling jealous is not exactly something we seek. It's also completely normal, and at its core, jealousy exists to serve as a protection against any evolutionary threat. Our subconscious is running the show most of the time. So, who knows why you're actually having trouble being "fine" when you hadn't even realized you expected the same recognition as another coworker? But there it is — the evil green machine. 

You're expected to execute deliverables in exchange for your paycheck, and likely your time is organized and allocated toward goal-driven results. However, envy can persist if you are not able to let go of your longing to meet expectations. At work, your value to the company is quantifiable and inherently competitive, which can leave you feeling tied to certain outcomes. So, what can you do about your jealous feelings? First, try not to judge your jealous side too harshly, and then use these suggestions to help tamp down that thought spiral (and sour stomach) before your emotions get out of control and turn into regrettable behavior. 

Practice generosity, not just gratitude

Buddha highlighted that attachment and desire is the source of all suffering. Insecurity, hunger, and jealousy are all symptoms of attachment. These emotions are based in the habit of looking at what's lacking — the glass half empty — rather than gratitude for the reality of what's right in front of you — half a glass of water. Gratitude is an excellent weapon to battle jealousy, but is it enough to change your attitude? 

Expressing gratitude through tangible generosity can be a more work-centric way to help adjust your professional jealousy, while also staying on task. Generosity at work can be as simple as sharing your intellectual property or pertinent information, lending a helping hand by using your unique skill set, or simply giving extra time and attention to a shared goal. Sound familiar? Sure, these might be the very "extra" things you were doing to catch a reward, promotion, or add a credit to your toolbox. But what if you shifted your thinking and let go of your attachment to the outcome of your efforts? 

Studies have shown that practicing generosity is good for you. Not only do those around you receive the benefits of your efforts, but you feel better about yourself and your own aspirations. What are some of the specific ways you can practice generosity while continuing to strive toward your professional goals, maintain your personal boundaries, and stay healthy in the workplace? 

Focus on your personal best

If you find yourself feeling jealous about a colleague's success, acknowledge those feelings of low self-esteem and try to use them to fuel the energy it takes to focus on your own achievements in a new, creative light. Take stock of what you've accomplished. Make a list. Write down your day-to-day work and take a good long look at it. Give yourself some credit, maybe even a reward, for all that you've done already. Then, focus your time on looking at where you've placed your goalposts and how they align with how you work. Are you on track? Do you need a new track? Do you need to learn what a track is?

If you're someone who is passionate about your goals, you might have a tendency to be disappointed in yourself or your work. We can often be our own worst critics. We scoff at a compliment, praise, or thank you. Sometimes it's easier to focus on what we think is wrong rather than accepting ourselves as doing our best, especially when things aren't going according to our plans. If there's a problem to fix, then there's something to work on. If we've done all we can and it's still not what we expected, that can be a blow to our egos. 

It is possible to make our sometimes impractical outlook work for us, rather than against us. Give yourself a boost to your own emotional deficit, focus on the attention you crave (and protect your evolutionary needs), and your jealous feelings might start to fade.