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AMA Answers: How do I Deal With Jealousy at Work?

July 10, 2013

jealousy at work

I was recently promoted and a coworker really wanted my job. Not only didn’t she get it, she now reports to me. How do I deal with jealousy at work?

When someone else wanted your new job and was not selected, open communication with your new direct report is essential. The first time I was promoted to manage managers, one of the contenders for the position had more management experience than I did and was certainly qualified for the job. She was also a peer with whom I had enjoyed a friendly relationship. Although we had managed groups in separate departments, we had supported each other with information and cooperation. Now that I was going to be her manager, we openly discussed the situation right away. I empathized with her sadness. I said I believed she could handle the job as well as I could, based on her background and specific strengths. I wanted the new working relationship to work for both of us. I asked how we could be a team and make our new unit be successful. We needed collaboration to pull the merging groups together into one new unit. She and I strategized a way to work together and created one of the most cohesive, productive teams I ever experienced.

Here are a few tips for dealing with jealosy at work in general:

1. Have a one-on-one meeting immediately and discuss the situation openly. Allow the person to express opinions and vent. Listen to feelings with empathy. Discuss her strengths and achievements. Tell her you value her on the team and specifically why her contribution is important. Praise her accomplishments and skills. Ask how you can work together to make the new roles work well. Can you delegate special advanced tasks to her? Can she train and mentor others?

2. Define separate roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority. Keep the chain of command clear and make sure your authority is not undermined. Build a united team with your boss to gain support for your level of authority and decision making. Respect yourself and be confident about the reasons for your selection.

3. Keep open communication. Have weekly progress meetings with each staff member, including this person.

4. Help this coworker with a skill development path (without making any promises of promotion).

5. Periodically, discuss with this person how she feels about the relationship going forward.

Adapted from The Communication Problem Solver by Nannette Rundle Carroll (Amacom Books)

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About The Author

Nannette Rundle Carroll views management challenges as communication opportunities. For over 20 years, her powerful management seminars have helped participants use process skills to solve people problems. With this knowledge, managers can implement lasting solutions and build relationships. Her background as Director of Management Development/ Training for a Fortune 100 global division gives her a uniquely helpful perspective on aligning process, project and people management. Nannette is on the American Management Association Faculty. She is also a member of the National Speakers Association and is a certified Executive Presentation Skills expert.

One Comment »

  1. avatar

    I like the article, and the story of creating a good working relationship. This should always be possible with reasonable people.
    Can we clarify the most misunderstood word in English? Jealousy means: fear of losing something you have. Envy means: wanting something someone else has. 99% of the time when someone says Jealousy, they mean Envy, unless it involves their significant other.
    In the case of this story – being promoted over another manager – I am not sure that either is actually the case. It is more like being disrespected, not acknowledged or one’s value not being recognized; all very different things, different from wanting something or the fear of losing it.

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