Do You Suffer from Professional Jealousy?

by Alli Polin on December 11, 2012

are you jealous of your colleagues

Work is filled with not only challenges but also moments of team and individual success that are both big and small.  Sometimes, the success will be your own and other times it’s a colleague that has their moment to shine.

You’re thrilled for them, right?

  • Your BFF got promoted
  • The manager in the office next door is heading to London for her next assignment
  • Your colleague was invited to lunch with the SVP
  • A friend that started with the company the same day as you has closed five sales and you’re still on number two
  • In the all hands meeting, your team member was singled out for their contribution

It’s OK if you also feel a twinge of jealousy with their professional success or big opportunity.  I’ve been there too.  Being jealous doesn’t make you a bad person; it’s human.  The down side of jealousy comes out when we stop ourselves from seeing another person, a human being, and we only see our colleague through the distorted jealousy lens.

Be jealous for a moment, but don’t let it stop you from being a leader.  Leaders trust that they are enough and don’t need to belittle anyone else to make their own accomplishments bigger.

Here are five principles to squelch jealousy and refocus on leadership, relationship and connection:

1) Recognize That You’re Jealous

Jealousy may appear to you in disguise: Someone is suddenly really annoying, you no longer make the time to connect, every comment they make about their success feels like they’re jabbing you.  Recognize that you’re jealous.  By noticing the feeling, you can now be intentional about your thoughts and actions.

2) Don’t Horriblize

When we horribilize someone, we put them down to make ourselves feel better.  In fact, we blow up their flaws to the point that it’s hard to believe that they deserve any success or happiness in their life.  You suddenly feel justified in your negative feelings.  Instead of horribilizing, ask yourself, “what if I’m wrong?”  Invite them into the relationship with you instead of justifying pushing them away. 

3) Look in the Mirror

When you find that you’re unable to be happy about another’s success, and that jealousy is ruling the day, you may feel like you’re somehow less successful, less worthy or less of an accomplished person than they are.  It’s time to practice self-acceptance.  What if you’re not in competition but simply accountable for being and doing your best?  You matter and need to reconnect with what matters most

4) There’s Gold on Both Sides of the Rainbow

What side of the rainbow the gold lies on depends on your perspective.  If you’re looking with longing at someone else’s riches, from where they sit, they may be looking at you with the same sense of jealousy at your accomplishments.   What riches do you have to celebrate?  Find the abundance in your own life so you don’t default to scarcity when someone else shines.

5) Celebrate Success

Genuine celebration of another’s success takes us out of our heads and into real-life with meaning, action and heart.  Smile (Tiny Buddha has some great ideas to get you started) – the physical act of smiling actually helps us to be happy.   What starts with effort can end with genuine happiness and delight for another’s success.  When we disconnect, and wallow in jealousy, we miss out on the chance to build relationships and be a part of something truly special.

Do not let jealousy derail you from living your leadership values.  You are enough. 

How have you successfully combated your own professional jealousy and refocused on what matters most?

(Photo credit)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

chris December 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm

You hit the nail on the head with the final statement “Do not let jealousy derail you from living your leadership values.” My values are honesty, transparency, unity, and integrity there is no room in those values for jealousy in my life if I am walking those values. However, what I have noticed is that it is not jealousy that gets me so much as the tendency to focus on flaws of a person when those flaws are making my job harder. It is in those times that I must step back and refocus on that person as a human being reminding myself that most of the time what I perceive as a flaw is not something that person is aware of and they are usually not aware of the impact it is having on me. If I can do that I can apply steps 1,2, and 3 to downsize the problem. Great post!


alli December 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm


Horribilizing shows up not only in jealousy but in so many other ways. Thank you for sharing your experience and how you stand in your values to make a difference to your working relationship. I appreciate that you always add so much depth to the conversation!



Leave a Comment