In my first job out of college, after about two years, I was feeling ready for a promotion. When one wasn’t available, I applied for a lateral move. The role was reporting to a manager who was new to the company. Without my knowledge, he did a 360-type review and asked some of the other managers as well as my peers about me.
When I met with him to talk about the new role, he shared with me that some of my peers felt that I was not a team player and that I didn’t help them with their work. I was heartbroken, I had already taken on extra projects within my department and was leading a big project with a coworker in another department! And now my peers were mad that I wasn’t helping with their work too?
I asked my boss to meet with me and shared with her what I’d heard in my interview. Her response shocked me — she thought my colleagues were jealous. I was getting more recognition and doing more interesting work.
While this was obviously not my first conclusion, it started to make sense. I wondered, how should I have known they were jealous of me? Do you know the signs of jealousy in the workplace?
You were hired to lead marketing or run special events. Your coworkers think you get paid to play on Instagram or party, and they can’t help but be a little jealous as they type up the millionth budget report or get chewed out by another client. If your colleagues think your work is more interesting - it’s only natural that they might be a bit jealous.
Even though you’ve been a team player and pitched in anywhere you were needed, no one has time to help you. If you ask for help, your colleagues either ignore you or are too “busy” to lend a hand. Even worse, you hear them making snide comments as you walk away or leave the virtual meeting. This might be a sign of jealousy, especially if you were an external hire and you know your colleagues were up for your job.
Colleagues who mock any praise you get and aren’t even subtle about it might not even be trying to hide their jealousy. Try not to let it get to you. Instead, try to offer praise for the work they’ve done. Make sure your compliments are genuine or this could backfire.
Your jealous coworkers might shut you out by excluding you from social events. If that happens, take it in stride and spend your time with those who build you up. If you work for a really small company, think about joining an industry group or professional association.
If you can cut the tension with a knife every time you join meeting or conversation, there’s a good chance your colleagues are jealous. Even worse, you might hear from others that the same people are talking about you behind your back. You can choose to ignore this behavior or confront it head-on. Stay calm and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If your colleagues think the smack-talking doesn’t bother you, they might stop.
If you’re constantly the odd man out, it may be because colleagues are jealous that your ideas are usually implemented. If everything you say is met with resistance, try to see it from other angles. Be flexible and willing to try other ideas, even if you’re sure they won’t work. The exception to this is if one of the ideas poses a safety risk or could result in a big financial loss.
If colleagues ignore you when you speak to them because of their jealousy, try to keep your cool. Say good morning and good evening, and try to keep conversations short and positive. If you have to talk to yourself, try to keep it light.
While this behavior is incredibly petty, it does happen. If you find out you’ve been excluded, try to calmly let your supervisor know about the oversights by your teammates. If they see that the behavior is causing more issues for them, hopefully, they’ll cut it out.
While this is the lowest of the low, try to remember the old phrase about giving people enough rope and letting them hang themselves. Back up all your work, save emails and record Zoom meetings or conference calls if you have to. As long as you have the receipts, your colleagues’ lie will usually be exposed sooner rather than later.
If your coworkers are jealous of you, ignore it. Continue to be your kind, professional self. Say hello in the morning, and include your coworkers in meetings. Follow up when you need information and input. If they hurl insults or hostility your way, just let it roll off your back and keep it moving. You’re better than stooping to their level.
Ignoring jealous coworkers might be easier said than done. Make sure you have a support system in place. This could include a bestie to vent to, a mentor to help you plan your next move or a therapist — maybe all three. If you find yourself dodging the pettiness of a jealous colleague all day, every day, make sure you have support. You should also make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. This could come in the form of treating yourself to a yoga class making time for a mani-pedi. Whatever you like, make sure to treat yourself well.
Whatever you do, make sure you document everything — projects you’ve done, copies of correspondence with happy clients or even time stamps on emails you send. Back up everything so your jealous colleague can’t lie about your performance or say you left them off an important email or invite.
If your coworker’s jealousy is impeding your ability to do your work productively and efficiently, it may be time to let your boss or a supervisor know. Make sure you approach the subject with the goal of making your work environment more effective for everyone on the team — not with a goal of gossiping! There may be a way for them to intervene and help you out.
If you’re just dealing with one jealous colleague, you don’t want to give that person the power to push you out of a job you otherwise love. If you’re dealing with an entire department of green-eyed monsters, it might be another story. If the environment is particularly toxic and you’re waking up with a knot in your stomach every day wishing you could call in sick, it might be time to look at other options. If you can’t improve the environment, your mental health and wellbeing are more important than any job — so start making a plan to make moves!
Having jealous coworkers is never fun, especially if they’re treating you badly. As hard as it might be when someone isn’t being kind to you, try to have some empathy. If you understand where your colleagues are coming from, it might be easier to understand why they're behaving this way. But also know that by no means should you take any abuse just because your colleagues are jealous. Communicate your expectations clearly but firmly. You could try saying something like, “ I know I'm not your favorite person here, but when I speak to you, I do expect that you respond.”
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
The founder and president of M. Taffer Consulting, Marissa Taffer helps busy leaders grow and scale their businesses through project management, business development strategy and content creation.