How To Deal With A Jealous Coworker
If you’re an experienced executive, leader or manager, then you know that some of the most important business skills aren’t learned from handbooks. Instead, it’s the soft skills that set you apart from other career-driven people.
How do you navigate asking to take the next step in your role? How do you persuade others to try an innovative idea that might fail? How do you convince a team to work together and execute a project on time and on budget?
And perhaps most importantly: how do you deal with a jealous coworker?
It happens more often than you think. For people who achieve a lot, advance quickly and frequently earn promotions, learning how to deal with jealous coworkers is an absolutely crucial skill. Jealousy can stem from various sources, and it can manifest in subtle but powerful ways that impact your work environment, your personal well-being and your ability to succeed.
Let’s look at ways to gracefully manage a jealous coworker while maintaining your professional integrity and staying true to your morals, goals and values.
5 tips that will help you learn how to deal with a jealous coworker
1. Assume positive intent
When confronted with a jealous coworker, it's natural to feel defensive or hurt. Why are they so mad at your success? Why can’t they just be happy for your contributions? You’re on the same team, right?
It makes you start to wonder about the type of person they are. Maybe they’re bitter, emotionally immature or unprofessional.
But are they really? When we deal with jealous people, we start to judge everything about them: their morals, their work ethic, their competence. But keep in mind that doing this won’t help you actually deal with a jealous coworker. Instead of attacking their character, remember that jealousy often emerges from personal insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, or a fear of being overshadowed.
Instead of reacting defensively to these fears, try to have compassion for them. This doesn't mean excusing their behavior—rather, it means reframing your perspective to understand that their actions might be a result of their own challenges. By withholding judgment, you open the door to productive interactions. You begin to recognize that the person you’ve been working alongside is imperfect, but so is everyone, and that means you can find ways to work with them instead of against them.
2. Keep it professional
Maintaining professionalism is paramount when dealing with a jealous coworker. Let your work speak for itself. By focusing on your responsibilities and delivering exceptional results, you not only exhibit your commitment to your organization but also demonstrate your ability to rise above negativity.
Think of a coworker’s jealousy as just another performance test: how well can you function when there are challenges along your path toward success?
Getting entangled in someone else's jealousy-driven drama can derail your progress. Zero in on your own growth, development, and accomplishments. By maintaining your focus, you not only shield yourself from negativity but also serve as an inspiration to others around you.
3. Change the relationship
While it might be tempting to avoid a jealous coworker altogether, finding ways to change your relationship dynamic can be more productive. You can consider working on projects that minimize direct interaction, work in a capacity that doesn’t incite your colleague, or have a candid conversation with the person in question.
Approach them with understanding. Really listen. Share your observations about the tension and ask if there's something you can do to improve your working relationship.
If that doesn’t work, then focus your attention elsewhere: on building relationships with other colleagues who can provide a positive and supportive environment.
4. Talk to another leader
If the situation escalates and starts impacting your work or the overall office atmosphere, it might be time to seek guidance from a fellow leader. Reach out to a manager or your HR department to discuss the issue. Prepare specific examples of the behavior that has been impacting your work.
This step should be taken if all your efforts to mitigate the situation directly have been unsuccessful. Your organization should be aware of any issues that threaten the team's cohesiveness and productivity.
5. Talk to an executive coach
If the problem with a jealous coworker becomes too difficult to handle, but you also don’t feel comfortable bringing the situation to an HR representative, there’s an alternative: talk to a certified coach.
A coach can help you understand why your colleague might be acting the way they are. Not only that, but they’ll also help you understand your reactions to that coworker, and how your own internal beliefs, emotions and predispositions might be getting in the way of finding a solution to the problem.
For instance, if you’ve been acting spiteful toward your colleague because of their nasty behavior, your coach might point out that what you’re doing feels emotionally gratifying in the moment, but isn’t actually a good fix. In fact, it’s probably just making things worse.
Coaches are crucial guides for helping you navigate the countless problems that crop up in any workplace—you might find that working with one completely transforms your professional game in all aspects.
Learn how to deal with a jealous coworker today
Dealing with a jealous coworker is a challenging task that requires a nuanced approach. By assuming positive intent, maintaining professionalism, changing the relationship and seeking help from inside or outside of your organization, you can navigate this situation with grace and resilience.
Need more tips to improve your work life? Schedule a complimentary coaching session with us for more tips to deal with colleagues and other professional challenges.