Have you ever seen a successful person cast with a spell over them? The glitz and the glamour, spewing glitter from every orifice. How did you feel?
Let me introduce you to pleasure derived from some else’s misfortune –schadenfreude. Did you know that envy is registered in the mind like a real feeling of bodily pain? On the other hand, schadenfreude induces a pleasant euphoric state akin to a low-grade orgasm. Why am I sharing this? Because no one is talking about it. People may know it, may be familiar with it, however many do not confront, deal or embrace it. May be it’s time to unplug and make sure that you aren’t getting off at someone else’s expense.
Bruna Martinuzzi, author of The Green-Eyed Monster, states that envy is one of the disruptive emotions that affects our corporate environments. The “I want what you have” mentality. When we delve deeper into the fundamental factors that underpin envy, making comparisons rears its ugly head.
Throughout childhood we are introduced to the natural human impulse to measure ourselves against what others do and what they have. We drag a bag behind us stuffed with parts of ourselves that are not acceptable to families and friends, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out. Early messages about success, power and vulnerability are infused in our thinking, and our judging mind generates feelings of envy.
There was a time when envy served a purpose in helping us to keep alive. Today, envy is no longer geared toward our survival. However, when we perceive that we are being disadvantaged our survival instincts kick in. Think Fear of Missing Out, or not being invited to a business meeting. We begin to create stories about how we were overlooked and how unfair the decision was. Our sense of inferiority magnifies and our brain registers envy as pain.
Envy is woven within the fabric of our organisations and the ripples are crippling.1 It affects employee moods, morale, culture, and leads to employee disengagement and loss of productivity. It manifests at work through teams competing for resources and individuals seeking external validation.
Within your organisation, when hiring new high achievers within a team, have you observed long-term employees feeling like the newest additions get preferential treatment? Even though you treat everyone equally, this perception creates water cooler talk that you value the newcomers more, giving them more support and opportunities to shine.
Irrespective of title, people within organisations also play a role in poking the green monster. Check yourself: Do you constantly name drop, brag about your connections with high profile influencers, or shoot down potential ideas as no one can’t outsmart you?
It is impossible to eradicate envy from a workplace. However, leaders can create environments that minimise appearances from the green-eyed monster. Here’s how you can neutralise envy in the workplace.
Encouraging transparent communication and open expression of views creates a space where safety and trust is built. It allows opportunities to prevent envious feelings generating. Nipping envy in the bud eliminates the culmination of negativity before it reaches a critical mass.
Once you have confirmed that a leader has been bitten by envy, notice the unwritten rules that appear. “Tell her what she wants to hear to keep the peace and keep your job”. “Don’t rock the boat”. “If you want your idea to be embraced, make it look like his (or hers)”. When our culture is infested with these conclusions it is the start of productivity and performance decline. Gratitude for the privilege of leading others is the antidote to reverse any envy towards another human being.
An ability to say “thank you” is the first step of forgiveness which opens the door of gratitude. Forgiveness is an opportunity to let go of the bitterness that envy breeds. It creates a process of resolution where a perceived wrong may have occurred. When we allow ourselves to experience empathy and compassion it nourishes our soul and enables us to let go. When we choose to better ourselves, humankind improves.
Envy can destroy relationships, impede your career and erode your soul. The minute we notice that envy is present, and can name it, we have disrupted its strong pull. Self-awareness creates an opportunity to identify what triggers your envy of others. When a situation arises, examine the context and explore your feelings attached to the situation. Invest your energy into seeing how far you have grown and what areas you need to strengthen.
Workplaces can strive to make their culture the envy of their competitors. Create a thriving workplace where key talent is energised and retained for long term success. When you lead by example, consistently take action and focus on tangible results and outcomes whilst nurturing and challenging people, you will establish an enviable workplace culture. People want to live in a culture where they love their jobs, where they feel connected to the vision, and both people and business.
Within the workplace, you may use your envy of a colleague’s promotion as a catalyst for change and inspiration to expand your own knowledge, learning and personal toolbox to create future opportunities. On a deeper level, envy may be the illusion of an unfulfilled need and when we unveil the illusion, a road map of possibilities is the centerpiece.