Three steps for channelling career envy into productivity


It is a beautiful summer evening and you are at your favourite pub for a night on the town to celebrate your colleague’s promotion. It is time for the toast. As you raise your glass and see the radiant face of your colleague as she talks about her new role in your organisation, envy grips you in its vice. The clouds of gloom gather in your head and the lovely evening turns to dust as you struggle to smile through clenched teeth for the rest of the night.

The first thought that strikes people when a colleague gets ahead is the question - why is it not me? Or thoughts like -- why haven’t I been singled out for that promotion? Why am I not on the road to a great career?

There are three productive ways to fight career envy. Take these three steps and you may just be able to keep those green fangs of career jealousy in check.

1. Stop to think - is it as good as it looks?

If we were to go by social media posts, everyone seems to be living their best lives. They never have a bad day, never agonise over problems nor do they have any worries about the future.

As comedian and activist Franchesca Ramsey says, “Social media, unfortunately, just makes it a lot easier to be jealous. It sets up false expectations of reality, so it's really easy to look at someone else's life online and assume that they have everything going great for them and that their life is perfect.”

The reality, however, is far from what is portrayed. If you were to look closer, you would realise that no one is really sorted all the time. Everyone has issues and their fair share of problems and a promotion or a career upgrade is not going to change that.

When career envy strikes, remember the words of Heraclitus of Ephesus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, who said, “Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”

Make yourself a little happier by reminding yourself that your colleague will now have to handle new responsibilities, which will mean juggling his or her problems more efficiently. Ponder on the new sacrifices she or her may need to make. Are you ready to do the same? Think about it.

Bhaskar Venugopal, Process Consultant at an MNC says,

“People should move from envying to learning. You should examine what another person has achieved and make your own plans to reach the same goal. It is important to try and bridge the gap, either by expanding your own knowledge or being more productive. Make a plan for your own life instead of fuelling your envy.”

2. Focus on the things you want

Experts say that every pang of envy always tells you something about yourself. If you are jealous about someone’s position, that is exactly what you should be aiming for yourself. For instance, if one of your colleagues has been promoted to the position of Editor-in-Chief and one of your friends has just set up a new business, whom do you envy more? If you find yourself hankering for an entrepreneurial role rather than a big promotion at work, then that is the direction you should be heading.

Observe your thoughts and turn them into action by working towards the things you envy. Focus on what you want and take positive steps towards achieving those goals.

3. Set the bar higher for yourself

Instead of fuming and fretting about how someone else has forged ahead of you, turn your attention inwards. How can you improve your own skills to be eligible for a promotion soon? What knowledge-deficiency do you find in yourself that is holding you back? What behaviour problems do you see that could be an impediment to growth? Once you find out where you need to raise the bar, you could work towards it.

As author and Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin says, “Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they're big, flashing signs that something needs to change.”

Make that change today.


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