If you’re like most professionals, you work hard to improve your skills and strengthen your professional reputation. However, achievement sometimes brings with it an unwanted side effect: co-worker jealousy. Envy can damage your relationship with that person and in extreme cases jeopardize your career. To prevent this, it’s important to know when to take action and when to take the high road.
Clear the Air
You might need to confront your colleague, but don’t blame him or imply he’s behaving unprofessionally. Instead, tell him you feel the two of you don’t communicate or collaborate as well as you’d like. Ask for his opinion regarding the source of the problem and how you can solve it. If you previously had a good relationship but noticed a change after you received a promotion or other honor, tell him you’re worried this has affected your relationship. You should also confront him if he’s criticizing you in front of other employees or attempting to sabotage your job. Stress that you want to work things out but that you won’t put up with his actions.
In some cases you might not be able to talk things out with your co-worker, especially if he doesn’t want to admit his jealousy. This is also sometimes true if the jealousy stems from a single event such as a promotion, raise or other honor. If your colleague’s behavior doesn’t interfere with your work or threaten your standing in front of other employees, you may have better luck waiting for it to blow over. In time he may accept the situation and focus on improving his own work instead of resenting you.
Remove the Source of the Problem
If you know specifically what makes your co-worker jealous, downplay those accomplishments or advantages. For example, if your colleague envies your advanced degree, Ivy League education or prestigious awards, try not to mention them around him. This doesn’t mean you have to deny what you have to offer; instead, it’s a sign of respect for the other person’s feelings. Facing constant reminders of another person’s superiority will likely make him feel inferior. If you avoid discussing these subjects, you level the playing field and give your colleague less reason to envy you.
Share the Wealth
Simple acts of generosity can sometimes defuse a co-worker’s jealousy and transform him from an enemy into an ally. If you outrank him, ask him to assist you with important projects or assignments. This makes it clear you recognize and value his talents and skills, and establishes a more equal relationship between the two of you. If you receive preferential treatment from the boss, use your influence to get your colleague’s ideas heard. Your co-worker will realize you’re not a threat to him and that it’s in his best interest to work with you instead of against you.