10 Ways To Deal With Workplace Jealousy: What Does She Have That I Don’t Have?

10 Ways To Deal With Workplace Jealousy

High School All Over Again

We all experienced it in high school – the cliques that unwillingly defined our lives. Many of us spent a lot of time and energy either working to maintain our elite status, struggling to cover up the qualities that made us glaringly different from the norm, or trying to get an invitation to the cool kids’ table.

Some of us felt  the sting of being excluded or even publicly shunned by those in the spotlight. When people find out I was the picked-on kid growing up, they always ask me to give advice to those going through the same thing today.

The best thing I can tell them is that one day this will all be over. One day you will leave high school and find a big world out there that doesn’t care where you rank, that doesn’t care what you wear, that doesn’t care which one of you wore the crown at homecoming – a world where what makes you different will actually be the thing that makes you great.

Once you leave those doors, it will never be like that again.

Or will it?

I think that while we leave our teen years behind us, and while cliques are never as prevalent as in high school, they still do exist. We still carry around that desire to fit in, to be a part of the “in” club. Many of us still look around to see who is ahead of us – to see who is prettier – to see who has nicer things.

Many of us still feel like the one left out. And many of us leave high school only to find another world of cliques that don’t include us.  Luckily, this time the world is big enough to dodge those groups who are plagued by the desire to define themselves based on achievements, possessions, beauty, or how many people know who they are.

But I think it’s those same feelings that are behind jealousy in the workplace.

Conflict in the workplace among women

I really do try not to stereotype groups of people. And there are always exceptions to everything. But whenever I hear about conflict in the workplace, it is overwhelmingly apparent in female dominated environments. Workplaces filled with women are often filled with drama and gossip – ruled by emotion, and once again split into groups of those who belong and those who don’t.

Yep, high school all over again.

I see women working against each other instead of working together. And I think self-esteem is at the root of it all. Somehow we think that another confident, strong, talented woman takes away from who we are – threatens us – makes us feel less than.

What does she have that I don’t have?

I struggle with jealousy. I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not proud, and I’ve been trying to deal with it for years.  But I do sometimes feel threatened by women who have made it when I haven’t. (And isn’t it odd that I don’t feel jealous of men, but only other women?)  I do sometimes feel envy when I see a woman with a hot body or a rocking pair of shoes.

Sometimes I do throw a pity party thinking she got the life I wanted. Yes, there are days when I throw up my hands and say “Why not me?”

I’m even jealous when someone laughs at another funny woman’s jokes.

So if I have a problem with these emotions, even being a motivational speaker, then I imagine other women do too.

So I’m going to give some words of advice and encouragement to those women out there who do feel the pang of jealousy – whether they are willing to admit it or not. The rest of you who are sincerely happy for others all the time, I sincerely applaud you. The world certainly needs more of you.

10 Ways To Kill The Green-Eyed Monster of Workplace Jealousy

1. Recognize that you are jealous.  
Sometimes we don’t even know that the root of our emotion is jealousy. Sometimes it manifests itself as criticism. We hold a spotlight on all their actions and criticize them, as if finding their faults will somehow make us feel better. Maybe our mother was right when she always said, “Oh, don’t let her bother you. She’s just jealous.” If you find yourself wondering “why not me” then you are experiencing jealousy.

Learn to catch yourself when you feel anger or criticism towards someone else. Learn to stop and hit the pause button and ask yourself what’s going on here? Why am I feeling this way? What’s behind this? Any negative emotion towards someone else is a trigger to stop and evaluate.

2. Honor the emotion. 
The first step to overcoming a problem is to acknowledge that you have a problem. Don’t try to deny your jealousy. And don’t beat yourself up for feeling it. You are having a normal emotion based on many factors and life experiences. We aren’t perfect, as much as we think we should be.  You have had years of being conditioned by the world. Changing it takes time.

Stop saying “I’m not jealous” and start saying, “You know what – I think I’m jealous of her. I see what’s going on here, and it’s perfectly normal. Now let’s see if we can work this out.” (As you can see, working through the emotion of jealousy requires a lot of talking to yourself.)

3. Know that being jealous hurts YOU.
Feelings of anger and bitterness and resentment towards someone else are emotions that hurt YOU mentally and physically. And it’s simply no fun walking through life in a funk. Would you rather walk through life angry and filled with resentment, or do you want to spend your days happy? The choice is yours.

When you feel that anger and resentment building, stop and say to yourself, “This is not good for me. I don’t want this in my life. I want to laugh and to smile and to be at peace.  This emotion is not serving me.” Repeat it until you mean it.

4. Force yourself to be happy for that person.
I remember a time when I didn’t get a job I interviewed for. It went to a woman with more experience, compared to my no experience. She was better qualified, and had spent years working towards this goal. I fell into the opportunity, had not even considered this as a life path, much less worked to get the skills necessary – and still I felt jealous of her until a friend said,

“Kelly, this is her day, not yours.”

What a gift.  The words were so freeing. I was instantly released from my bitterness and jealousy simply by acknowledging that today was her day. I’m not sure why that worked. Maybe because by acknowledging that today is her day, I was also acknowledging that one day it would be mine.

When you’re up against another woman for an opportunity, and she gets it, smile and say, “Today was her day. One day it will be mine. But for today, it’s hers.”  And mean it.

5. Combat jealousy for her with a positive feeling about yourself. 
I think that often when I’m jealous of another woman, it’s because deep down I’m feeling poorly about myself. Her success just points out what a loser I am. The fact that she made it, just shows that I didn’t. Sound familiar? While this is a normal emotion, it is not true. And this is a sign that you need a boost to your own self-esteem.

We need to let go of that feeling that if we don’t do it like her, then we aren’t doing it right.

Whenever you recognize feelings of jealousy in yourself towards another woman, get out a piece of paper and start a list of what you have accomplished. No feat is too small, no achievement is meaningless. This is not what the world defines as important, but what YOU define as important. For some of us, just getting out of bed that day is a huge feat.

Honor it. you made it to lunch without killing your kids – honor it. You have been married for forty-five years – honor it. Now hang this list up where you can see it all day. Read it before you go to bed. And eventually you will come to see yourself for what you really are, not for what you aren’t.

10 Ways To Deal With Workplace Jealousy - Envy quote by Carrie Fischer

6. Stop thinking that successful women are a threat to your success!
This world is big enough for all of us to be wildly successful. Believe it or not, we can ALL reach our dreams. You reaching your dreams won’t keep me from reaching mine. Sure, maybe that one job could only go to one person. And only one woman is going to land that guy. So maybe that one tiny little opportunity was taken. But the world holds an infinite number of opportunities. Go find another one. There’s one waiting with YOUR name on it. I promise.

Repeat after me: The world is gifting me with an abundance of opportunities. There will be more opportunities than I can ever accept. There is enough for all of us. Just because she got promoted, does not mean I never will.

7. Helping others helps you.
Many people much more “successful” than me, have stated that one of the top reasons for their happiness and their ability to reach their dreams, has been their willingness to help others. The fastest way to get your mind off your own problem is to help someone else with theirs. And I think that the universe has a way of helping those who help others. It somehow comes back to you, and even when it doesn’t, you don’t really care because you stopped focusing on yourself.  Many times we get into the “take” mentality.

And while I’m a huge fan of asking for what you want, seeking help, and receiving gifts sent your way – I think that sometimes we can get blinded by our panic and by our desperation, or simply by our inability to see what we have to give. And for all of us to rise up together as women, we need to reach out and help each other as often as we can.

Whenever you walk into work, a networking situation, a conference, or even a girls night, walk in saying to yourself, “Who needs my help today? How can I serve others? Please show me who needs my comfort and encouragement today. Help me focus and listen and respond. Stop me from thinking about myself, talking about myself, or getting what I want. Today it’s not about me.”Helping others helps you. And even if it doesn’t, do it anyway.

8. Be careful of smoke and mirrors.
There was this one speaker once, years ago, that I was really jealous of. I didn’t know her personally, and didn’t even really know much about her. I just knew that what she had, I wanted. The bitterness ate away at me until I felt like a crumb. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I decided to face this emotion and kill that green-eyed monster once and for all.

I took a good hard look at what she had done to get in the spotlight.

I analyzed what made her great, and what she did every day to stay in the spotlight. I looked at her credentials, her skills, her achievements, and her gifts. I looked at what I would have to do to get that same opportunity. And I came to the shocking conclusion that I didn’t want her life. That I wasn’t willing to do the work she does. When I put  myself into her day, I hated it.  I had been jealous of a woman for getting something that I absolutely did not want myself. How weird is that?

What you see is not always what really is. When are feeling jealous of a successful woman, stop and recognize that you are only seeing her in that one moment – and even that moment may not feel like you think it does.  You may be blinded by the glamor so that you don’t see what she had to give up to get there. You may think the pay off is bigger than it really is. For all you know, you have it better.

9. Never forget that there are women looking at you desperately wishing for what you have. 
I remember a time in my life when I was particularly overcome with resentment and disappointment, and I met a woman from another country. This woman told me that it pains her to come to America and listen to women complain about trivial things, when she lives in a country where women aren’t even aloud to sing or ride a bike through the streets or even show their face.  I was instantly overcome with shame. I had let my selfishness outshine the many freedoms and gifts and blessings staring me in the face.

Every time you are feeling less-than or unworthy, or disappointed in yourself, just remember what you have been given, and how far you have come. Every time you look at that woman in the spotlight with jealousy, just know that there women out there looking at you in your spotlight feeling the same envy over what you have.

10. Don’t be jealous over what you were never willing to work for, ask for, or claim for yourself. 
Oh, how quick I am to judge, criticize, and envy –  and how slow I am to turn the light on myself and ask the hard questions. More times than I care to admit, I am jealous over a woman who worked her way to the top while I sat and did nothing but whine about not getting there myself. Many times that woman got there because she was confident enough to ask for it, and I didn’t.

While I was waiting for someone to hand me my golden ticket, waiting for someone to notice me and give me my big break, she was creating it for herself.  How often I think I deserve the same pay off as someone who in reality worked much harder than I did.

When jealousy creeps up, turn the mirror on yourself and ask: How hard have I worked at my dream? Really? Am I upset because I didn’t get something I never asked for myself? How is my confidence? Do I know what makes me great? Am I willing to tell the world?

Sometimes we don’t reach our dream simply because we never ask.

10 Ways To Deal With Workplace Jealousy - Motivational Speaker Kelly SwansonI hope this blog post makes you feel better instead of worse. I hope that you see yourself for who you are, instead of who you aren’t.  I hope it gives you the courage to help yourself and help others.

And I hope that brings us closer together as women instead of further apart.

Because we truly are stronger together.Let’s reach the stars together.

Love your dream sister,

Kelly Swanson

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who motivates and inspires audiences to make positive changes in their lives. Through a unique approach using storytelling and comedy, Kelly shows her audiences that they matter, and helps them to get a new perspective on the obstacles they face. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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  • I have never felt jealous of friends or coworkers for their accomplishments. It’s the reason I started 8 Women Dream – to help women be successful at living their dream. I don’t understand being jealous of women because I am always (and always have been) so darn busy working on my own stuff that I don’t pay attention to women that way. I’ve even had the most beautiful of friends who went on to enjoy lucrative modeling careers and married uber-wealthy men and I still thought, “Wow. She’s so beautiful and cool.”

    But I have been on the receiving end of vitriol by women, and frankly, I don’t get it. In high school I experienced the whole mean-girl thing and I even thought back then, “What is it about me and my life that should garner so much attention from you? Don’t you have better, more interesting things to focus on for yourself?”

    But women really need to get over this stuff if we want to break the glass ceiling because the most common complaint by business management is that when too many women work together the idle gossip and backstabbing ensues at an exorbitant pace. Thus they hire more men to address this problem and scale back on hiring more women. How would you feel if the real reason you didn’t get hired for the job you wanted was because the women at the place you applied can’t just focus on work instead of each other and management decided to be done with hiring women for this reason? And don’t think that management is unaware at who is doing this in the office — they always know no matter how discrete the women think they are being.

    We need to stop focusing our attention outward at what other women are doing and look in the mirror, look at our own lives and focus on making our own dreams come true. I say show me a woman too focused on other women and talking about them and I will tell you just how unhappy she is with her life. But instead of admitting that she is unhappy and has problems that need fixing, she pushes her attention outward by focusing too much on other women.

    In the past when a dreamer would attempt to go down this road I would re-direct them back to their dream — it would always be the one dreamer who was not doing anything to move her dream forward and really didn’t want to do anything for themselves to change their life. It was all smoke and mirrors.

    So I would challenge women when they are paying too much attention to others to look at their own life. This is so great that you wrote this Kelly! Bullying doesn’t stop in high school and the sooner women realize this is a form of bullying the sooner we as women can speak up to stop it. We are not in high school anymore.

    Amen to that!

    Great piece.

    Hugs, Cath

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