How to Deal With a Jealous Coworker

Jealousy is rampant in the workplace. In a 2006 study of more than 100 supervisors, Robert Vecchio of the University of Notre Dame found that 77 percent had experienced a jealous incident in the workplace within the month prior to the study. Jealous colleagues can be extremely damaging to a worker's career and work life, and can even cross the line into bullying. An employee must deal effectively with jealous co-workers to prevent damage to his own reputation and career.

Critically evaluate your own behavior. Identify if you have done anything to aggravate the jealousy and tone down any behaviors — such as bragging about your successes — which could spark jealousy in coworkers. Remain humble and give credit to coworkers. Be genuinely pleased for your coworkers' successes.

Build relationships with your other colleagues. Go out of your way to be professional, friendly, supportive and help others whenever needed. Cultivate a reputation as a team player and someone who can be counted on in a crisis. A jealous coworker may try to turn the team against you, but by developing a strong relationship with the others in your office you can minimize the negative effects the jealous worker has on your career and call her credibility into question.

Keep records. Save any emails, notes or voice mails the jealous worker leaves. Never engage in an unprofessional exchange and avoid responding to your coworker's jealous missives. Instead, save the information and record the specific details, dates and witnesses in a journal for use if the situation escalates.

Get the support of your boss. Rather than approaching him to "tattle" about the situation, give your boss a heads-up that you will be speaking to your coworker about the jealousy. Give him a brief synopsis of the situation, and a summary of the professional way you plan to raise the issue with your coworker. Emphasize that you are interested in resolving the issue now — before it impacts the division's performance — and are genuinely interested in helping your coworker resolve her negative feelings. Tell your boss that you will handle the situation yourself — this will likely earn his respect — and ask him for tips and feedback on your plan to deal with the issue.

Report the behavior to your boss or human resources if it becomes unmanageable or crosses the line into bullying. Present the records you have kept and state the issues calmly and concisely. Be specific and discuss the most egregious issues rather than covering a laundry list of petty slights. Ask witnesses if they will be prepared to speak with HR to corroborate your version of events.

Tips

  • Disengage and ignore the behavior as much as possible. Focus on improving your own work product, so there is nothing your jealous colleague can legitimately complain about.

    Be friendly and gracious to your co-worker, and give her room to save face and back down. This approach has the added benefit that you will be perceived as the consummate professional, even in the face of unprofessional behavior from others.

References

About the Author

For more than a decade, Tia Benjamin has been writing organizational policies, procedures and management training programs. A C-level executive, she has more than 15 years experience in human resources and management. Benjamin obtained a Bachelor of Science in social psychology from the University of Kent, England, as well as a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University.