Being envious of the exceptional talents and abilities of others is a common trait to have.
"Jealousy is a natural human emotion," says Judith Orloff, author of "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life" and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California--Los Angeles.
Feeling jealous of your boss is even more common, considering the perks of his or her position include having authority over others, cashing a larger paycheck and receiving a majority of professional accolades.
"It's a very common thing to be jealous of your boss, especially if the boss has something that you want and you feel that you don't have enough," Orloff says.
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Allowing that jealousy to manifest itself, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, may lead to a temporary moment of bliss. But here are some of the negative emotional, physical and professional consequences of your envy:
Increases stress. Having jealousy as a staple in your work life can trigger unhealthy amounts of stress, which can lead to emotional and physical ailments. "What happens with jealousy is that it gets stress hormones surging through your system, and that has all kinds of negative effects," says Orloff, naming a vulnerable immune system, depression, anxiety and burnout as some consequences.
Depletes your self-esteem. Consistently focusing on your boss's strengths and dwelling on your weaknesses only diminishes the regard you have for yourself. Don't let jealousy be an excuse to beat yourself up, Orloff says.
Becomes all-consuming. If resentment toward your boss has been simmering for years, it can leave you emotionally empty and physically weary. "The longer you [feel jealous], the worse it gets because it eats away at your body and spirit," Orloff says.
Stalls your success. Your ill will may drive you to be uncooperative and actively undermine your boss, preventing him or her from achieving goals. But if your advancement within the company is closely aligned with your boss's ability to succeed, your actions could harm your career as well. "If [your boss] doesn't achieve those objectives, they're not successful. And if [they're] not successful, you're not successful," says Anita Bruzzese, a USA Today workplace columnist and author of "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy."
Jeopardizes your raise. While your boss may not pinpoint the rationale for your rebellious behavior, he or she is well aware of it. Don't be surprised when a request for a salary increase gets turned down during a performance review. "She may not be able to put her finger on exactly what the problem is, but [she] is going to sense that you're not cooperative, that there may be feelings of jealousy or hurt or anger," Bruzzese says.
Hurts relations with your colleagues. You may feel like a lone ranger when it comes to the jealousy you harbor, but your co-workers are quite mindful of your sentiments. Colleagues will grow tired of the tension-filled work climate and could distance themselves from you. They'll recognize that you "fuel a bad atmosphere in the office" and hinder collaboration, Bruzzese says.
Turning the Page
Jealousy doesn't have to be an entrenched part of your personality. Here are ways to limit its reach or purge it from your system:
Talk it out. Find someone you trust and express how these feelings are hounding you. "Sometimes it helps to confide in someone," says Bruzzese, noting that a close relative or friend may help you discover a solution.
Write it out. You may not have a close friend or relative who you can hash out your feelings with, but a pen and journal can be a nice substitute. And writing about what's on your chest can blow off steam. "Journal about your feelings, and identify the object of your negative emotions and where that came from," Orloff says.
Take control of your thoughts. Starve your jealous inner ruminations by focusing on your talents, positive personality traits and work ethic. "You have to take control of your thoughts. Otherwise, it can just turn into an excuse to torture yourself every day when you go into work," Orloff says.
Avoid comparing yourself. Admire your boss's strong suits; don't use them as a means for measuring your own perceived shortcomings."Thou shalt not compare," Orloff says. "The minute you get into comparing yourself with other people, you feel less than [adequate]. It's a vicious circle of oppression."
Build up your self-esteem. Self-affirmation doesn't only come in the form of verbally or mentally telling yourself how great you are. Being around positive people, eating healthy food, exercising and taking time off are also effective ways to build up good feelings, according to Orloff. While the methods differ, each helps reach the same goal: Taking the focus off your boss and positively placing it back on you. "Take your eyes off other people, and affirm your own self-esteem instead of worrying so much about what they have," Orloff says.
Remember that civil isn't code for cozy. Dropping your jealousy doesn't mean you have to become best friends with your boss. But you should maintain a polite and respectful attitude toward him or her. "You don't have to be best friends, but you certainly want [the relationship] to be civil and professional," Bruzzese says.
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Turn a negative into a positive. Harness your bitterness to change your attitude and behavior. "If you use the negative emotions as a prompt to transform to something better, than it's all a growth lesson and that's good," Orloff says.
Think about working elsewhere. If you absolutely can't overcome the feelings you have, contemplate switching jobs, Bruzzese suggests. But finding a new job may not be a perfect cure. Whatever route you take, it's important to deal with the issue, which may require seeking professional help.
"I would certainly encourage you to get professional help because if you cannot cope with it, it's not going to go away simply by changing employers," Bruzzese says.
- Judith Orloff