Fighting Envy at the Workplace
Question: I want to describe my inner condition, which is strange for me. I can’t understand it because this condition is not typical for me. I’m speaking about envy – feminine envy. I don’t like envious people, because I think they are diffident and it’s a bad trait of character. I’m always glad for my friends’ success, because they earned it. And I’m only anxious for success too.
But I discovered this feeling of envy in me when I came to work at a company where my former group mate worked too. She has filled a higher position than me. She was able to charm everybody (mainly our chief), she got married, gave birth to a child, and bought a house and an expensive car.
It is a shame, but her well-being has made me irritated. First of all, her visual pretence is annoying to me: her smile, her gait, her kindness and the innocence in her eyes. And her inside pretences – her words, actions, and manners of behavior – provoke me too. But what oppresses me most of all is that people who have known her from University think of her as smart, beautiful, and feminine. I think that she’s unnatural, clumsy, and false. She also dresses tastelessly, although I can’t deny that she is pretty. I do not envy her having a child and a wonderful husband (I feel pity to him because he doesn’t know how she got her promotion) because I’m a loved mother and wife myself. But her career troubles me. It seems to me she doesn’t deserve it. But she has a salary 4 or 5 times more than I have. I ask myself why. I graduated University with honors too, I have an academic degree (in contrast to her), and I’m more sincere and more interesting than she is. I know what a real friendship is (for her it’s just a cold benefit). It often seems to me that during our communication she tries to emphasize that she has a higher post than I have. For example, at her birthday party in a restaurant where there were many people, she said that we had studied together at the University. And it seemed to me that everybody thought about the difference in our careers even though we graduated together. She is a department manager and I’m just an ordinary specialist. It was very unpleasant for me.
I can’t understand myself -- I thought myself to be a self-confident person, but now when I see her I feel anger and rage. It troubles me that I can’t hide my attitude to her in other people’s presence. I just can’t greet her and pretend that I don’t see her. Recently, I learned that she was promoted again. I was in a very bad mood all day long! If she was a hardworking person I wouldn’t be worried so much. But she does her work in a slipshod manner.
By the way, when our chief who had advanced her left his work, I asked her if she would miss him, and she answered with an angry face that it was absolutely impossible.
I understand what you’ll tell me - that I have to stop looking at her, her successes, and just live my own life and try to achieve my own success. I understand it, but there is just one snag to it – I can’t control myself at the mention of her. I don’t know how to overcome myself. Is it really envy, or just a peculiar reaction to my not being appreciated for my true value? Do people in our company value a person not for his or her skills and knowledge, but according to the degree of corruptibility?
Answer: Well, it is not your colleague’s successes, her pretence, or her slipshod manner of work that is annoying you, but your own wish to have the same that she has. But you consider her methods to be unworthy. There is a “supervisor” inside you who criticizes your effective actions and leads to ineffective ones. The essence of our society is that effective people direct other people to the fulfillment of less effective aims, leaving the effective ones to themselves. The overwhelming majority agree with this alignment of forces and are glad to have opportunities to work. On the other hand, nobody prevents your from acting more effectively and stops you from comparing yourself with others. You are unique, just as your colleague is. You just have different methods to succeed. Based on the results, her actions are better because they are more effective; from the view of moral resources and spiritual values – your actions are better. The question is not that you, by changing your values, can’t get the same results as she can; but that you don’t try to increase your efficiency using values which are important for you. You have hardly tried to do anything for other companies, but it could help you to lower the dependence on your employer and to raise your income and status to the level your former
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