The green-eyed monster’s disruptive tentacles in the workplace

The green-eyed monster’s disruptive tentacles in the workplace

Street Art in Miami

Street Art in Miami

In nature, greenery is soothing and tickles the bare feet. In nature, on a hiking trail green is welcoming to the eye, soul and mind. Grass and more grass. I remember at boarding school, we were not allowed to walk across the grand lawn and would get ticketed if caught. For we were to protect the grass and treat it with care. Bare feet and a warm bum were welcomed, but spiky soles and the like were frowned upon. Till this day, I avoid trampling on grass.

The grass and green leaves around my yard are turning this autumn day. Soon, the clock will be turned back and the days will be shorter and the green will lose its sparkle. But there is a lot more to green than the beauty of nature. Green has a bit of a Jekyll and hyde persona. In nature its soothing and awe-inspiring in the workplace it can be sickening.

See this photo below. If you look carefully, you will see a cute little penguin burrowed in deep amongst the cold green grass. At times, it seems that could be any one of us in the workplace.


Burrowed Penguin

Burrowed Penguin

Jealousy. Jealousy is a potentially horrible emotion to experience in personal relationships. In the workplace, it can be downright dangerous for your sanity. Everybody from Mean Girls to the loners can be brought to the point of acting like green-eyed monsters or like a tantrum-throwing hulk child like in the Miami Street art photographed below.


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Why is that?

First and foremost, there is jealousy over salaries. There is no way around this other than paying everyone the same salary despite work type, experience and workload. Perhaps at times it is not so much about salary but about a sense of justice. I get that. Nonetheless, did you know that one of the two types of survey questions Americans readily leave unanswered includes salary. Yes. We have tied our self worth, in part, to our salaries and this jealousy springs eternal.


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Then, there is the jealousy over the favorite child. Yes, there are times when staff act (consciously or not) as if their bosses are their parents. And hell have no grander fury that when a parent shows favoritism concerning children. In the workplace the same sense of fury applies. If the boss tends to consistently give the cooler projects to one staff member over another, or readily treats some staff to lunches, dinners or baseball tickets there will be grumblings. It will become the equivalent of that Kevin Bacon movie “tremors.” Meaning things will descend into campiness-or rather-extreme buckets of jealous bile. To mitigate this type of jealousy is to not play favorites. However, that’s unrealistic since there are favorites. Just try to rotate the goodies. Even if you do not personally like certain staff still make an attempt to have “nice” one-on-one interactions.


There is also the promotion jealousy. When there is an internal job opening, the correct thing to do when possible (according to textbooks) is to hire (meaning promote) from within. An internal hire is meant to showcase staff development and build up morale. Oh, the horror! At times, promoting from within leads to jealousy, acrimony and eventual apathy. The question becomes “why her over me or so and so?” There is an automatic assessment of skills and past situations where favoritism could now be noted. There is also the hard transition for me to from being peers to a now unbalanced relationship. Jealousy often roars loudly in such internal-hire situations and can create a toxically electric workplace. A way to mitigate that is to be as transparent in the process as possible and create other opportunities for internal advancement and development.


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Have you ever sat at a staff or team meeting where some staff get praise shout-outs while others do not? Awkward! It is ok to give an exceptional employee who just completed a fabulous project a shout-out. But once you start giving every other employee a shout-out it becomes uncomfortable. The end result is hurt feelings and subsequent jealous tantrums.


Now all those were infrastructural and management-induced inequities that can produce jealousy. There is then the jealousy that occurs amongst team mates just because we are human. I have outright received jealous glances when I eat a double-cheeseburger with fries followed by a boston creme donut. I get the typical “wish I had your metabolism. You are so lucky.” You know such a sentence is expressing a sense of jealousy akin to “hope you choke on that donut.” Yes. Many won’t outright admit to thinking that sentiment. Its just buried way deep but manifested in an evil eye stare. Speaking of which, a female colleague once remarked on how cute and tiny my feet are. The comment was outright creepy. But I thanked her for her “compliment.” The next day, I twisted my ankle and fell; scarring my foot as a result. That my friends was the result of the jealous evil-eye. Seriously.


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Jealousy, whatever is it good for?


7 replies »

  1. Jealousy, (I’ve been guilty of this) should be turned to self-assessment. What was in the other person that made the boss give the promotion? What qualities should I try to emulate? How does one become more effective? These questions should be asked instead of seething, burrowing it deep.


  2. Never gave jealousy much thought. You’ve really stirred up serious questions and thoughts. I hope your post serves to inspire others to not feel jealousy towards others. And, if they want to zero in on that “internal promotion,” they should work harder and not cast their (green) eyes on others’ accomplishments.


  3. Ya know, I don’t think I was ever jealous of anyone on my last job. In retrospect, that was probably a sign that it really wasn’t the place for me. I’m really enjoying the place that I am right this minute – home in my jammies reading my favorite bloggers!


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