Envy in Workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about envy:

I am in a situation where my superior is at the top, and he and I have (by ourselves) have spent the last 7 years building a success to the point we need to add other people. When other people started coming in (his high end friends), envy erupted toward me from all, including the “partner.” So I am in a place where I am a target, and I have been doing way over my job description for years. I have been suddenly iced out, after spending half my life devoted to the place. How do I deal with the envy?

Signed, Iced Out

DearĀ Iced Out:

To feel frozen out is deeply uncomfortable. You diagnose the cause of this as envy of new hires of your superior’s “high end friends”. Your analysis obviously comes from incidents that entail words and acts that you probably can recall should you try; words and acts that you took as mean-spirited or at least inconsiderate. You ask how do you deal with envy?You don’t say what’s going on between you and your superior. I suspect that is at the core of the feeling that his high-end friends are in and you are out. It is not unusual for a boss to hire friends, but you imply that this individual is in a class above and has well-positioned friends. Your use of the term “high-ended” suggests you don’t like the fact that those individuals and think it was not fair to hire his friends. Yet, as I said, it isn’t unusual for a boss/possible an owner of a small firm to hire those he knows.

You, no doubt, have some questions that are circling about in your head: should you confront this iced out feeling by confronting your boss? Or should you speak up in a staff meeting the next time you are ignored or not included in a matter of importance? Or is this a more general problem of incivility and escalating antagonism that should be confronted openly as a work group? Or should you approach this whole thing indirectly by focusing on over-arching goals that require teamwork and engagement of all?

Rather than to deal with slippery term such as envy, you now have several overlapping approaches to weigh. Do you feel and think about these and bite your tongue? Or have you reacted in ways that are defensive and contribute to being iced out? It might take considerable analysis to pick apart the incidents that have accumulated to your feeling or you might be able to pinpoint when, where, and what happened to make you feel frozen out. To free up what you want to happen might require being able to describe the context of incidents that stick in your mind even if you determine it would be better to focus on what is ahead for you rather than what has happened in the past.

However such an analysis can obsess and make you walk on eggs and that is not what you want. No one answer to the series of questions may be better than another. But it is sure that mulling them over and over is not an answer. Soooo why not determine to problem solve by engaging your superior of seven year? Ask for a time-out session with him. Seek his analysis of what is causing your iced out feeling. Candidly ask where he sees you in plans for this coming year. Learn if you still have a career in this place. Come with ideas about what you see in future for what you’ve built together. In the course of this conversation, you should be able to determine if indeed you have allowed your imagination run wild or if in fact new hires and/or you have behaved in ways that have resulted in your exclusion. Does this make sense? If not, do any of these remarks prompt you to a more creative and constructive course of action? The spirit of what can see you through in whatever course you pursue might best be understood by my signature bit to advice: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Is not this what you want; to be included and for all now in your work group to feel the enriched by what you together can do to not only succeed but to thrive? As you can tell, I have given some thought and time to explain the ramifications of this situation you pose and, therefore, appreciate and update after a few weeks on what path you chose and how it is working out. This is to say that you, of course, are not your superior, but you are the manager of your career, and I wish you the best.

William Gorden