Compliments of ZOom2 via Flickr

 Jealousy is code for lazy  

– and lack of confidence in one’s abilities.  It’s an emotion so strong it has led to murder.   

Chagrined by their pedigree and ashamed of their achievements (or lack of thereof), the jealous lash out at their alleged threat. Their degree of obnoxious behavior is proportional to their perceived inadequacy. Why do people spend time downing their compatriots, when that same time could be spent correcting their flaws?They are unashamed to make a spectacle of themselves, provided their target is “beneath” them.  Anger is ignited when achievers are deemed unworthy, or subpar.  Bullies remove the mask of human decency for someone they deem inconsequential, an easy mark, and a low stakes game. Their animosity is projected at those deprived of  power. 

The ethically depraved save their BRS (best reflected self) for individuals with greater cache. Bad behavior is a perverse bonding mechanism to both showcase their bravado, and to gain power by abuse. Calling people out serves the dual purpose of (1) shaming the person in question; and (2) building credits with the dominant coalition. Untoward acts (in a dysfunctional firm) establish one’s place in the pecking order. 

Dissimilar stars are like the weak ones in the herd. Cortina (2008) notes that people engage in “selective incivility,” where female and minority fast trackers evoke envy and animosity (instead of praise and admiration). 

How can jealousy manifest on the job? Through 

  • Sabotage: Complaining to your boss (and others) behind your back
  • Humiliation: lambasting  you in a meeting, and playing devil’s advocate for no reason
  • Funneling: communicating through a third party
  • Elevator eyes: demeaning behavior designed to degrade your status
  • Objectification: talking about you in the third person
  • Policing your behavior
  • Patronizing sarcasm in which you’re not addressed as equal
  • Non-apology for brutish conduct
  • Isolation, ostracism, and non-contact

Obnoxious behavior unchallenged breeds more. As one in charge your mandate is to set the example, and to lower the boom. Inertia works at cross purposes from confronting the cancerous. In the absence of sanctions, meanness will metastasize.  

Withholding respect violates workplace (and social) norms. At the corporate level emphasis on competition may actually facilitate jealousy. The film “I AM” argues that our focus on Machiavellianism is opposed to that in nature – in which components act in a democratic and not a “winner take all” fashion. 

What a different world it would be if we treated everyone as royalty, and if we chose to celebrate, instead of sabotage others’ achievements. Recently, an administrator gave me a “kindness” stone. I keep it on my office keyboard as a daily reminder of what’s expected.   

“The meek shall inherit the earth” – because they have a more expansive world view. Perhaps what they lack is vitriol, or internal poison which manifests in spite. They are spared from the sin of bruising their peers.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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