Today’s post was inspired by Valentine’s Day but the topic isn’t about romantic relationships or whether dating in the office is a “do” or “don’t.” Instead, it’s about the etiquette of dealing with a colleague whose actions are more bitter than sweet. Dealing with a jealous coworker is similar to dealing with a jealous mate. The rules are basically the same; the actions are just adjusted to fit into a work-related environment. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be referring to the coworkers in this post as “her,” but the rules apply to both men and women! Asking yourself where your officemate’s feelings may be coming from is the first step towards resolution. Are you a threat to her promotion? Do you make inadvertently make her feel inferior? Are your shoes shinier than hers? If she feels it, it is real (perception is reality), so making your jealous coworker more comfortable may be the first key to diffusing a potentially destructive office relationship. My recommendations for moving towards more positive interactions are below.
- Sugar her with kindness. Try to get to the bottom of what may be setting off your envious colleague. Ask yourself honestly if it could be something that you are doing that is yanking her chain. If you don’t like her or avoid her at all costs, your own behavior may be the catalyst for conflict and office strife. Be pleasant and show respect for “Jealous Julie” and when the opportunity genuinely presents itself, compliment her on a job well done. Consideration often curtails the jealous offender; attempt to make her an ally rather than a vicious competitor.
- Set boundaries. Don’t allow your jealous colleague to knock you off your professional track. If her behavior is distracting or affecting your job performance, consider extending a lunch invitation and asking her point blank if there is something on her mind. Being direct about the situation in a professional manner, in a public place may allow her to address the issue(s) and move on. The only warning is to keep it civil and professional.
- Nurture office relationships. Don’t let one jealous coworker harm your relationships with fellow colleagues and your boss. Maintain a good attitude and don’t miss an opportunity to be included in office functions, team activities and the after work soccer league. It’s more difficult for the jealous coworker to form alliances with those that enjoy spending time with you.
- Do what you say you are going to do. Don’t give the jealous coworker reason to complain about you. If you say you are going to meet her at a client’s office, be on time, prepared and ready to work…don’t make her wonder if you can be trusted to keep your word.
- Don’t exclude her from the party. This also includes company meetings or company events. Let your coworker know you consider her part of the team and treat her with respect. Forgetting to invite her to the office pizza party after work shows her that you don’t value her as part of the team.
- Accept a few bumps in the road. Just as her animosity with you has developed over time, it may take just as much or more time to smooth things over. Be patient and remain optimistic. Your kindness will eventually triumph over the situation.
- Encourage her to succeed. Let her vent her frustrations and fears and take steps to be a part of her success. This will build a relationship based on trust and respect and you’ll feel so much better sharing space with her day after day when you’re on the same page.
- Give genuine feedback. Recognizing her hard work and saying “thank you,” or better yet, acknowledging her contributions in front of the team when the opportunity presents itself will make an impact over time.
- Get professional help. If you can’t find a middle ground in your office conflict, ask for a third party that might be able to help you sort through the difficulty and come out better on the other side of the problem. Express that you want help to work the situation out and welcome a subjective third party point of view. This person should be someone you both trust and respect that can be counted on to act in the best interest of the team and the company.
Staying focused on your professional goals and making every effort to improve yourself, your career and your relations with every member of the team will go a long way towards making this year your very best.