Creative Counselling: Professional Jealousy
In this month’s Creative Counselling, we discuss professional envy and how to deal with it
by Marie Bruce
Have you ever felt a pang of envy when a friend lands a great job, or a colleague gets promoted? Professional envy is not uncommon, and we are likely to see much more of it in the current post-COVID-19 job market. It comes from a fear-based place of scarcity thinking, and with more people becoming unemployed, that scarcity thinking has a basis in truth.
As more and more people apply for the same jobs, the competition will be fierce, so it is important that you can navigate your way through it without losing your sense of equilibrium.
Professional envy happens in all sectors and at all ranks. It comes from feeling that someone else has what you want, whether that be a book deal, a promotion, a company car or just about anything else. It might be directed at you, or you might feel it in relation to the success of a colleague or a friend. It can even be a bone of contention in your marriage or relationship. This is especially likely to be the case if you both work in the same sector, or if one of you has a high-flying career while the other gave up work to take care of the children. If you resent your partner for their career success because you are stuck at home, then you are experiencing professional envy. On some level, you want the same career opportunities they have.
What can we do?
In such circumstances it can be hard to smile and congratulate the person who has just been given the opportunity you have always dreamed of – but that is exactly what you should do. Be kind, be gracious and take it as a sign that if those close to you are being given new opportunities, you’re moving in the right circles and it’s only a matter of time until it’s your turn to get ahead. Until then, keep working on your goals, polish up your CV and maybe take on some additional learning in the form of an online course you can do in your free time as continuing professional development.
What if I’m on the receiving end?
Being on the receiving end of professional envy can be tough. If a colleague is deliberately undermining you in meetings or whispering during your presentations, it could be that they have some resentment towards you. Call them out – just like your teachers used to do, ask them if there is something they would like to share with the whole group. This will usually stop their behaviour on that occasion, though if it’s an ongoing issue, it might be best to take them to one side for a chat.
Just because someone is resentful towards you, it doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it. Resentment shows itself in many subtle ways. Whispering, gossip campaigns, sabotage of projects, ‘lost’ paperwork, messages that don’t get through to you, not being informed that someone is waiting to see you or that you are waiting to be seen, disgruntled non-verbal communication such as huffs, puffs, sighs and rolling eyes. Take these signs on board and make a mental note of them, because they are all indications that someone harbours resentment and professional envy towards you and your career.
Professional envy is not limited to the workplace. When I had my first book published over twenty years ago, I had more than my fair share of envious resentment to put up with. Some tutted, huffed and arm-folded at the first mention of my new job as an author. Others asked to see my new book just so that they could make a point of immediately casting it off to one side in favour of doing something else. The resentment was palpable. If you have achieved a certain level of success, professional envy will rear its ugly head, but it might not come from the direction you expect.
Be aware of non-verbal communication, such as the type mentioned above. People might have full control over their words and might even say all the right things, but their non-verbal communications could be telling a different story. Make sure you observe them closely. If their body language doesn’t match up to their words, they could be hidden resentment at play.
What if I’m the one feeling envious?
It goes without saying that you should never let professional envy get in the way of your career path and personal success. If you’re the one feeling envious, take it as a sign that you’re focusing too much on the career of someone else. Begin instead to focus on moving your own career forward. The chronically-disgruntled tend to also be the lifelong underachievers – don’t join their ranks! Take steps to move your own working life forward, and be grateful for the opportunities that do come your way.
If someone is envious of you, show compassion for them. We currently live in a world of gross inequality, and to some degree, those who do not have will always envy those who have. It’s a natural consequence of an unjust society. Do what you can to help those less fortunate and open doors if you can.
Sometimes the best way to help others is to progress in your own career and self-development journey first, so that you are in a position to open doors and change policies for others. Rather than getting into conflict with colleagues or friends, focus on your own ambitions and promotions. You deserve your success, so make sure that you enjoy it! Until next month,
Marie Bruce x
About the author:
Marie Bruce Dip. T.C. MBACP is a qualified psychotherapist, Cruse Bereavement Counsellor and best-selling self-help author. She specialises in grief and loss counselling, PTSD and military counselling, and life coaching.
In this monthly column, Marie offers simple tools used by therapists to help clients and readers improve their mental well-being.
Marie’s books are available on Amazon UK.