5 Ways to Protect Yourself From a Jealous Boss

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
May 19, 2024 at 5:0AM UTC

 What are you supposed to do when the one person you really need to impress gets jealous of your accomplishments instead of proud of you or eager for your growth?

After all, your boss is the one in charge of giving you raises and promotions — and if they're jealous of you, it's possible they may be less inclined to help you advance. That's the concern one anonymous FGB'er was dealing with when she wrote into the Fairygodboss Community to say: "I think my boss is jealous of me."

"I've been working under my current manager for about eight months now, and we got along perfectly fine at first," the FGB'er wrote. "Then, about four to five months in, something changed on his end. Our company is small and fairly laterally structured but, now, he's no longer inviting me to be a part of meetings and conversations I was once welcomed to. I do my job just the same as always, and my relationship with others at work hasn't changed; a few times, people have voiced that they're surprised that I wasn't a part of meeting XYZ. At the end of the day, my only guess for why he doesn't want me there is that he feels threatened by me. I've worked at the company for longer than he has and, frankly, am better liked — and my input is often sought after."
She doesn't know how to manage this situation, as she doesn't have firm evidence that her boss is jealous — it's just a feeling. So she asked the FGB community for advice.

Here's how FGB'ers advise dealing with a boss who's giving off jealous vibes.

1. Show respect for your boss.

Let your boss know that you respect them and their own strengths — you can even play up their strenghts.
"What are the strengths that he brings to the table?" wrote Nirupama Raghavan. "Can you seek his advice on any topics? Often, just demonstrating that you respect him can make a difference."
Ask for advice, ask for their opinion, inquire about their background and do your best to get to know them more. The more you show an interest in what they bring to the table, the less they'll worry about what they're not bringing to the table (and what you are instead).

2. Have an open conversation about the tension.

"Use the time to ask," wrote Jeanne Rowden Dansby. "'I've noticed a bit of tension lately; have I done something wrong?' Listen carefully and do not interrupt him. Be willing to take the critique and work together to figure out a way to fix it. If he chooses not to respond or denies any issues, take that as his answer and just keep doing what you do so well. In other words, if he says there is no problem, then there is no problem. You have better things to do than try to pry open his psyche."
Other FGB'ers agree that initiating an open dialogue is important.
"Seems like this is a good time to have a conversation with your manager and be really objective and fact-based with lots of curiosity," wrote DrSusanBernstein. "You can say something like, 'I noticed something has shifted, and I wonder if you're seeing this, too? I used to be invited to the XYZ meeting three times a month. But now, I no longer get those invitations. I wonder if you're aware of this?'... The onus is on him to share. If he doesn't, then you can say something assertive like, 'I recognize the need to contribute my expertise on ABC, so I'll plan to be there at the next meeting,' and either leave it at that or say, 'What time is that being held?' Assume you belong there. And then, watch what unfolds. It may be very telling."
Remember to stress why you're approaching the conversation, too — you want to ensure that you're doing your job to your best ability.
"During that conversation, I suggest stressing that you want to do your best at supporting your boss and your department," A.N. wrote.
You never know — it could be for good reason that you're no longer invited to meetings.
"It could be that your boss feels more confident in his role and no longer feels he needs you there," wrote Rose Holland. "He may have wanted to do you a favor and take this off your plate."
After all, "it's hard to know until there's an inquiry about it, DrSusanBernstein added. "Otherwise, it's speculation."

3. Consider talking to your human resources department (and takes notes if you have to).

"If there is no clarity after the conversation, then I believe you need to start thinking if this issue needs to be escalated further," wrote an anonymous FGB'er. "Please ensure that you are keeping track of dates of meetings that you are not being added to and any other situations that may occur. You can use this if you ever need to bring this up to HR."
Taking notes is important.
"I would also start documenting, off-site, the items that you are noticing (no longer being invited to meetings, colleagues’ comments, etc.)," wrote A.N. "Documentation will be helpful in the event that you need to discuss this matter with HR or senior leadership."

4. Start showing up and putting yourself out there.

Start making moves for yourself even without the invite to the meeting. Show up. If you're really not welcome, send an email to the people in the meeting sharing the ideas you have — and maybe someone else besides your boss will invite you the next time. 
The point is to put yourself out there so that other people are aware of the value you bring to the table. The more advocates and supporters you have in the office, the less important it'll be if just one person wants to stunt your growth.

5. Look for a new manager or a new job entirely.

If the situation persists and the conversation doesn't get you anywhere, you might have to make moves to work for someone who wants to see you succeed — not hold you back because they're jealous.
"You might want to consider a transfer inside your company or exploring new opportunities at other firms," wrote A.N.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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