2 Ways to Turn Office Envy into Motivation

BY Courtney Huckabay
Featured image for “2 Ways to Turn Office Envy into Motivation”

There's a lot of writing and talk out there about empathy at the office. It's super buzzy, which gives me cause for concern over the fact that we need to teach people to be empathetic. Eye roll.

So today I thought we could cover a different "E" word – envy. Good old-​fashioned, sneaks-​up-​on-​you envy within the workplace. At some point in our careers, we've all struggled with envy – even when we think we're above it. Sometimes it just happens. It's so prevalent that the topic came up in a recent company-​wide meeting at my office, which led to a healthy, honest discussion about it. Side bar: Jealousy and envy are indeed different. We learned (thank you, Google Overlords) that jealousy is about keeping what you already have from others, and fear of losing what you've got to another. It's more about possession. Whereas envy is coveting what someone else has because you don't have it.

If you're battling this demon, consider doing the teensiest bit of self-​reflection. Envy could turn out to be your biggest motivator. Jane Burnett wrote up a few strategies to get over envy (and yourself) at work. Here's a couple to contemplate:

Assess the fairness level

"Harvard Business Review says that you should think deeply about what’s going through your mind, and assess the level of fairness when you’re having trouble being happy for a coworker who wins at work."

You might notice someone getting an awful lot of public praise and recognition. Or, a colleague is receiving treats and rewards. Maybe it's time for you to up your game?

Take a hard look at whether any of your negative feelings are justified or should be addressed. If indeed the playing field is uneven, or some favoritism was involved, then think about whether you want to talk about it constructively with your manager, a colleague, or an HR representative,” the piece says. “If, however, the other person succeeded fair and square, consider how you can use the other person’s achievement as motivation for yourself. What can I learn from what she did? What do I need to do differently to be recognized and rewarded in the future?”

Think about what you have in common

If you're honest in your assessments, you might be surprised to find you share traits and qualities with your rival. Focus on those and hone them to be just as successful as your competitor. Then you two might start feeling and behaving more like a team, and you'll be the player everyone wants on the team.

"Former C‑suite corporate executive and entrepreneur Glenn Llopis writes about how envy prevents us from connecting with others professionally in Forbes," Burnett emphasizes.

We can’t build respect and trust for one another – and therefore lift each other – on a foundation of envy. How can you build a network when envy stands in the way? Why envy someone else’s career aspirations when success is now measured by your influence,” Llopis writes. “Think about the influence you can share with others – rather than the barriers to advancement envy creates when networking.”