Workplace jealousy might remind you of high school all over again -- girls competing for the open cheerleading spot or jocks vying for the quarterback position. Jealousy often exists at work because subordinates try to land management positions, and the boss doesn't always make impartial decisions. Competitive workplace relationships add fuel to the fire making the environment tense and unpleasant. In the end jealousy can lead to strife, resulting in hurt feelings and disappointment for those who get shunned or overlooked.
When jealousy exists at work, gossip is usually part of the resulting problem. According to an August 2012 article by Kristi Hedges on the Forbes website, "gossip is envy’s first cousin." Employees gossip about workplace relationships, often making negative remarks about co-workers they dislike or envy. Gossip usually forces workers to ostracize or isolate co-workers they find threatening or dominating and those they perceive to be the boss's favorite. As a result, jealous gossip makes the workplace feel like a battle zone where negative emotions and animosity run wild.
Sexual competition creates jealousy in the workplace, especially for those looking for a relationship with the opposite sex. The Live Science article "Workplace Jealousy and Envy Differ in Men and Women" reports that sexual competition generally causes more jealousy and envy in women, but a rival's positive social skills can provoke jealousy in both men and women. Single women tend to be jealous of other women who are attractive, outgoing and influential in the workplace, fearing they might take all the eligible bachelors. Both men and women are prone to be jealous of co-workers who have strong interpersonal skills and climb the corporate ladder faster than most.
Low levels of self-confidence are characteristic of workplace jealousy. Those who gossip and belittle co-workers often suffer from a poor self-image and feel like they'll never measure up to others' successes. Robert Vecchio, a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame discovered that people who envy others at work have lower self-esteem, according to "The Seattle Times." Low self-esteem is a never-ending cycle because those who have low self-confidence aren't usually chosen for promotions and raises, leading to increased feelings of jealousy.
On occasion, jealousy leads to improved workplace performance. If a co-worker's promotion makes another employee strive harder for advancement, then jealousy can produce positive results. In many cases, this type of jealousy is more like admiration or appreciation. A study of bank tellers conducted by researchers John Schaubroeck and Simon Lam showed that workers envious of a colleague's promotion displayed higher job performance, as reported in "Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes." As long as jealousy doesn't lead to degrading gossip, low self-respect and inconsiderate behavior, it could have positive results.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.