How to use envy to propel your career

Envy can have a negative impact on you and adversely affect your career. How do you cope with envy at work? How do you make negative emotions push you towards your career goals? Use strategies that channelise your negative energies to produce positive outcomes. Learn from these tips and forge ahead in your career.

Many years ago, I attended a spiritual retreat aimed at self-awakening – I was a young twenty-something. Asked to describe myself, I responded by saying that I thought of myself as a successful, happy and confident person. Of course, I was right, I was all those things.

The leader of the retreat took the discussion to jealousy. I didn't think of myself as a jealous person – I had no reason to be envious of anyone, I had achieved more than many others my age. Was I being conceited, perhaps I was. But, I was just being honest, I described myself the way I viewed myself.

To cut a long story short, that day I learned that I had a streak of jealousy in me. I am not necessarily envious in the sense that I do not hate everyone I meet. But, when it came to my career, for instance, I could be an unequivocal covetous person. That was a long time ago; today I have learned to turn envy to my advantage.

Jealousy is a very 'expected' reaction. Some people are excellent at concealing it, but if someone says they're not jealous of another person, they're either lying outright or are not in touch with their inner self. There is also a chance of them being a 'living saint', which I won't buy!

Coming to myself, I still allow myself to be jealous and I am being honest about it. I see it as a natural reaction to events, but I also know that it is fruitless. It is a distraction that interferes with my goals. It spreads negativity. So, I have learned to harness my emotions. It might seem a tad difficult to do, but if you realise that you only stand to lose when you are consumed by envy, you would be more willing to change.

I am citing different situations in a working environment where feelings of jealousy can crop up. Relate them to situations that you might encounter and find a way to get over your episodes of envy.

When you lose out on a foreign appointment

The news of a colleague getting an onsite appointment is circulated through the office email. While the atmosphere in the office is jubilant, you feel a twinge of envy. The prospect of him getting to go abroad on company expense and getting paid in US dollars is enough to make you jealous.

Sure, you congratulate the co-worker and happily indulge in the celebratory impromptu party that is customary on such occasions. But, on the inside, you feel the pangs of jealousy consuming you. Why weren't you offered the opportunity, you wonder. You were as deserving!

How to leverage the envy

Episodes such as the one illustrated above, where another employee gets selected for a coveted appointment, can inspire intense bouts of resentment. It doesn't matter if they are better qualified for the new responsibility because it's just normal for everyone to feel snubbed by the top management.

Instead of wallowing in misery and feeling despondent, divert your energies into decoding the reasons behind the person's success. Put aside your biases, because nothing will give you a better insight on their success better than an unbiased analysis of their performance. It is important to appreciate the qualities of the other person – understand their strengths and their aptitude and it'll enable you to determine your next course of action. They lay a clear path for you to follow. You just need to be honest with the analysis to get a road map that you can then follow.

It is fine to be a little envious. Envy can be a catalyst in your life .

When a teammate receives accolades

Visualise a scenario where you are in the midst of a monthly meeting, when the team manager openly praises a co-worker, for their effort. The entire team breaks into spontaneous applause. You clap too, but there is a conflict in your mind. All you can think of is that an associate's position has been elevated and they are being seen as the best thing to have happened to the team.

Your feel dejected, perhaps, because your efforts have been momentous too. You put in as much effort, if not more. You've every right to feel cheated and it is natural to go green with envy. But, like I mentioned before, there is a lot more than you could do, instead of letting your energies be focused on negative feelings.

The best way to leverage the envy

Don't let your jealousy be evident. You do not want to be seen as a loser. So, be generous with your congratulatory words. It was a team effort, and yet a colleague managed to make a mark for themselves. The individual must be exceptional, with extraordinary talent. That in itself is commendable, so recognise and appreciate that fact.

That is the first step to work around the jealousy; the second step is connected to the first, in a way. Don't ignore this colleague; there is a lot you can learn from the individual. Turn to them for assistance because they probably know more than you do. Instead of having hard feelings about them, why not learn from them?

It helps to accept the truth. Don't live your life believing yourself to be the best – remember, your co-worker just proved you weren't. But, that doesn't mean you cannot become the best. It just needs some effort and that involves three things –
  • Accepting your shortcomings
  • Giving credit where it belongs
  • Willingness to learn from others

Follow these three golden rules and you'll rapidly turn the tables, which will result in boosting your confidence. This strategy allows you to strengthen your resolve and work on your weaknesses.

When a workfellow gets a promotion

You know your company is expanding and growing its business. The office buzz says there'll be opportunities to head projects. You clearly, see yourself as someone who'll fit the role of a new project head. You are sure of earning that coveted title. But, lo and behold when the names are made public, you do not feature on the list.

It is obvious that you'd be shocked and the feelings of rancour will take a foothold. You cannot control your emotions because you feel cheated and think that you deserved to be one of the project heads. You are angry at your boss and feel envious of all those who got selected.

But, why weren't you selected? Maybe (and well it has to be the right reason) the others had proven themselves to be more worthy for the new duties.

What do you do to leverage the bitterness

When you are among the top contenders for a job which eventually goes to someone else, your ego does get a big blow. You are not going to hand in your resignation letter, right! Since you'll be around working in the same atmosphere, why not get involved, in earnest, in the new project.

My advice to you is to put aside your ego and look at it as an opportunity to prove your mettle. You were overlooked for some reason. Identify that reason and work to improve yourself in that area. Volunteer to be a part of the team and take the responsibilities given to you seriously. This is your chance to build and market yourself.

When you volunteer, you automatically come within the view of the top bosses. They might have missed you earlier, but now you let them know that 'hey, you are there too'. So, you begin building a relationship with them from the word go, and, in doing so, forge ahead of all the others who will be asked to join the team.

Once you're in the team, show that you are a capable player, with your willingness to go above and beyond. You'll end up getting the recognition you deserve.

Closing note

I think everyone feels jealous, especially when our careers are involved. It is almost a natural human instinct, but it doesn't make things better. It only serves to make you feel more miserable and dejected. It reflects in your whole personality.

So, the next time, you find yourself in a situation that warrants the 'natural envy instinct' to take over your life, take a deep breath, reconcile with the situation and look for avenues that can help you get ahead. You'll be surprised at your own resourcefulness and how easy it is to turn a unfavourable situation into a favourable one.

Go ahead, put these lessons to the test – Good luck!

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao12 Oct 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

A nice article by the author. I agree that everyone will feel jealous in our careers. But if you feel jealous and start thing about the other person's success, you will be lost forever. So I feel one should reconcile himself and see what is making the difference. Then you will also be successful in your career. If we take the success of the others as a lesson to us we will progress further.
But I have seen in many private organisations, irrespective of you delivering the goods, if your boss is not impartial you may not get the due. The person who is in the good books of the boss because of other reasons than performance may get elevated. This is a special situation wherein we lose our interest and get lost. In this conditions, I think the only way is to look for an alternative.
A very well written article with a lot of inputs for the younger generation, who are in their initial stages of professional life.

Author: Natarajan12 Oct 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5

Excellent article about a human trait that can result in just a simple comment or destroy a career or life. The foreign appointment example is a very true event in many offices. It takes me back to the first Indian in space (April 1984). Two of the best Indian officers ( Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra were in training together) but only one was chosen. Many of us in the shoes of the other person would at least have envied Rakesh Sharma as to how did he get it, even if both are the same).

Agree with the very nice concept of accepting that somebody else can be or may be better than us and then moving forward to improve ourselves instead of just feeling miserable.

If we cannot achieve something that our colleague has achieved fair and square does not mean that we are not up to mark. There may be some areas that we need to focus on, with the right positive approach to harness our strengths and improve our weakness. We also are sure to succeed. Glad to note the message that it's human to feel envy. Envy someone gracefully but also use the same envy to motivate you to succeed the next time.

I'm sure that many in the corporate sector or competitive exams can learn a lot from this informative article.

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