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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