We’ve all been there…we scroll through our social feeds. We see the images of friends, a recently promoted colleague, or a client and notice her beautiful family, her new vacation home or car, her recent trip to Paris -I mean who has the time to travel like this, right?
She also posts about her upcoming partnership with that brand you’ve been gawking online for a year, followed by her keynote speech happening next month in LA at that woman’s conference you literally just applied for.
WTF? Cali has been on your vision board for 3. Damn. Years. THREE YEARS, UNIVERSE!
You want to ‘like’ the post and feel genuinely happy for her and celebrate her successes. But you’re secretly hoping she falls into a volcano -far, far, far, FAR away.
Envy is universal. It is the distress people feel when others get what they want. The Harvard Business Review has actually spent the past 10 years, studying hundreds of executives and their organizations in an effort to discover what role this deadly sin plays in the workplace. They found that regardless of the economic climate, people at all levels of a firm are vulnerable to envy. It also intensifies in times of economic crisis and as losses mount, employees worry that they’re in jeopardy. They grow to resent successful colleagues.
Envy damages relationships, disrupt teams and undermines organizational performance. Ultimately, it harms the one who feels it. When you’re obsessed with someone else’s success, your self-respect suffers. You actually neglect or even sabotage your own performance. Sometimes even your career.
Yes, envy is a difficult emotion to manage. You know why? Because it’s difficult for us to admit that we actually feel it. That discomfort causes us to suppress our feelings, which makes things even worse. Guess what? Repressed envy resurfaces, and when it does, it’s stronger than ever.
THBR found that it is actually possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by envy and even to flip it and use it to your advantage. Below, you’ll read on how to recognize potentially destructive thoughts and behaviors. Then, how you can flip them into kinder, more productive ones; making yourself more open to others, more receptive to change, and filled with more meaning in your life and business.
We tend to make ourselves feel better by belittling the accomplishments of the person we resent. We also tend to distance ourselves from that which we are envious of. Though friendly competitors challenge each other, enviers have difficulty learning from and collaborating with others. That leads to disruptions or oversights at work.
You may be asking yourself why we pull away? It’s because the closer we are to someone, the more intensely we experience envy because the successes of your close friends or colleagues seem attainable to you, too.
Remaining at arm’s length from successful friends or colleagues leads, unfortunately, to missed opportunities and inefficiency.
So, in order to flip the envy you may be feeling and use it to your advantage, here are a few simple techniques:
Identify what makes you envious
Your envy reflex is a useful source of information. Recognize the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger the feeling. Ask yourself if your feelings reveal what you are most insecure about lacking. When you nail down the things that set you off, you can begin to wrangle the feelings of envy before they turn into a shit-storm. This can help you shift your focus to improve the areas you’ve now discovered you care about.
Run your own race
Comparing yourself to others is natural. It can serve as motivation. Too much of it, however, leads to envy. Try instead comparing your present self against your past self. Affirm who you are and what you’ve accomplished. If you feel threatened every time someone other than you does well, do one simple thing: remind yourself of your own strengths and successes. If you’re in a leadership position, share the privilege and power. When you share the glory with others, you help both your peers and yourself. I love the concept of earning a reputation for helping develop future leaders. As our ETTWomen motto goes, “Together, we achieve more!”
Operate from a space of abundance, not scarcity.
Often, people on teams throw sharp elbows as they compete for resources they perceive to be limited. However, sharing resources, ideas, connections with others will always help keep envy at bay. Hoarding resources do not guarantee your survival, it only isolates you and causes you to lose allies. Sharing the wealth, in contrast, lays the groundwork for reciprocity.
The economic crisis prompted people to question their own worth with urgency and fear. The non-stop news about our socio-economic inequalities reminds us that others enjoy rewards we don’t. Social networking sites tell us who gets the promotions and are enjoying better vacations than our own. Anxiety about our own performance undermines our insecurities. All of this and more, has helped produce the perfect envy storm.
Know this: envy, while natural and automatic, is controllable. Flip it by reflecting on your strengths, your accomplishments, your ability to take a breath this morning, what you actually have. You can turn a humiliating emotion into the bridge transforms both your own performance and that of those around you.
Vanessa is a wife, mom, author, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of ETTW (Entrepreneurial Think Tank For Women) and the founder of V&Co.