Monday 5 February 2018

Dealing with the Green-Eyed Monster

This is one of those posts that I probably shouldn't write but it's been niggling me for a while and perhaps the only way to make it go away is to write it. It's not intended to get sympathy or beg for reassuring comments, more just something I need to put down on (digital) paper. 

I want to talk about professional jealousy. We all experience it - that feeling of irrational rage when someone else has done something you wish you had, achieved a goal that seems out of your reach or has just done something better than you. It's natural to feel jealous in this sort of situation and it can be a good motivator to work harder or get out of your comfort zone. I know that I wouldn't be in the role I'm in today if I wasn't occasionally jealous of the success of my colleagues and pushed myself that bit harder. This is the positive side to jealousy but what about the negative? At the extreme it can lead to people making nasty comments and you becoming the outsider. Unfortunately this is something I've experienced quite a lot recently, both in my day job and in the other professional commitments that I have. Things have been going well with work, both for me and my wider department but with that success comes the flip side. It can range from flippant comments such as people telling me I shouldn't complain about being tired because it's my own fault for taking on too much, through to more 'organised' moaning that gets back to you through the local grapevine. 

This isn't really a new feeling for me. I've always been something of an overachiever - doing more work than necessary and taking on too much. When I was at school I was often referred to as a swot and was bullied for it. Typical kid stuff that we all go through and that has fueled the plots of some great 80s high school movies. The thing it, I'd sort of hoped that as we got older, left school and moved into jobs which turned into careers, the taunting would stop. Or at least people would get the sense to keep their comments to themselves. Sadly it seems that this isn't the case and recently I've been feeling that I've gone back about twenty years. I still tend to take on too much and get involved in a lot of projects (in a similar way to many other information professionals I know!). In the beginning I did this in a bid to impress my then-bosses into giving me a permanent job and then afterwards because I found that I enjoyed getting involved. And maybe I'm a bit addicted to that nice feeling of knowing people like something I've done. I certainly like helping people and get a lot of satisfaction this way from both my job and my extra curricular activities. It doesn't stop the jealousy getting wearing though, especially when you have a lot on your plate.

So how do you deal with the green-eyed monster? If you are one of those experiencing jealousy then remember that it's natural. As I've said above it can be a great motivator if used correctly and can really help to push you to achieve something. If you are jealous of a colleague then stop and think about how they've got what it is you want. You could even use it to start a conversation with them and learn about the steps they've taken to get where they are. If they're anything like most people in this profession they will be more than happy to help you with a bit of friendly advice. You may even have to do a bit of introspection and acknowledge that it's your problem rather than theirs. The bottom line is be a grown up and remember that no matter how you intend your comments, they can get lost in translation and get back to the other person. And if you're on the receiving end? Then try and see it for the pettiness it is and let it pass you by. It's easier said than done I know, and sometimes it can build up and really wear you down. If people aren't saying these things to your face and you hear about them second hand it's probably because they know they're in the wrong. In the same way that bullies will put you down because it makes them feel better, the irrationally jealous will know on some level that they're being juvenile. If they had a genuine comment to make that could be backed up with logical argument they would start a conversation with you rather than whispering when they think you can't hear them. But think of it like this - you must have done something right for these people to be jealous of you. Keep focusing on that and doing what you're doing and hopefully that will be enough to get you - and me - through!

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