Imagine that you’re sitting at your desk on a Monday morning, exhausted from a weekend of work to finish a huge project. Your air-dried hair is in a frizzy ponytail, your expensive French concealer is doing nothing to disguise the blue circles under your eyes, and your bargain-basement high heels are giving you blisters. Oh, and you’ve also got a zit.
In the middle of your forehead. In the exact moment that you’re wallowing in your pitifulness, your coworker stops by your desk wearing a pristine designer shift dress that most likely cost as much as your rent this month. Her flowing hair has amazing volume and is so shiny you can hardly focus on what she is saying. But then, you hear it: she’s been promoted, again. And is transferring to your division, to work on your team. She’s excited about the opportunity to partner with you. It’s strange to think that your envy could be killing your career, but it’s true!
It’s easy (and common) to hate “Little Miss Perfect.” Did your heart just sink a little after reading that? If yes, you’re not alone: we’ve all had moments where we felt flawed, uncomfortable, and unsure of ourselves. Nothing makes you feel worse than working alongside a coworker who is not only genetically blessed and naturally gifted, but also nice. How can you possibly compete? You can’t, so your knee-jerk reaction is to text your best work friends to set up lunch, where you’ll collectively analyze all of their flaws, speculate as to how exactly she snagged that clearly undeservedpromotion, and discuss how her Tom Brady lookalike boyfriend cannot possibly love her.
It’s amazing how common comparison and jealousy in the workplace is, probably because it’s so easy to think of work (and sometimes life) as a competition. It’s tempting to succumb to jealousy and pettiness when you have that mindset, especially when you think you’re not winning. When you’re feeling bad about yourself and directing that negative energy at your coworker, you’re also limiting your career in major ways.
#1 Jealousy will earn you a reputation as a toxic person to be around
How you carry yourself and interact with your colleagues is just as important as your skills on the job – even offhand remarks made in private can come back to haunt you. Petty behavior will earn you a reputation, and it will deter others from wanting to work with (or for) you, lest they be the target of your vitriol in the future. Sometimes, it’s better to follow your mom’s advice and keep your mouth shut if you don’t have anything nice to say.
#2 Your career is not a competition
Your career is highly personal, and often involves lateral moves, jumping to new companies, and changing bosses and demands. There is room for everyone to succeed, no matter what field you’re in. Your career path is unique to you, and will change and grow with your strengths, skills, and life goals. Competing with someone for a promotion, a role, or an award is futile. Working as hard as you possibly can in order to grow, be given new challenges, or be recognized is a really great idea!
#3 The time and energy you’re spending to validate your jealous feelings can be better spent improving yourself and your skills
There’s a wonderful quote on my desk (and despite my Googling, I can’t find the source) that says “dedicate so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.” It’s so true! The coworker you compete with the most and other high performers are your best asset. Rather than rip her apart over lunch with your friends, invite her to lunch one-on-one. Tell her that you admire X, Y or Z thing that she does well, and ask her for advice on how you can emulate it to be a better performer yourself. It’s a good exercise in humbling yourself, and you’ll likely get some really good tips (and potentially a new friend).
In my experience, jealousy is one of the biggest challenges for women in the workforce. It stems from low confidence, and leads to pettiness and cruelty. No matter how annoying or terrible your competition is, remember that you are probably considered competition by someone else or surely will be in the future. Letting go of jealousy and committing to use your energy for a greater good will help make the path a little bit easier for someone else.