How To Turn Your Professional Envy Into A Career Tool

Sure, you’ll get jealous of your friends and coworkers now and then. But you don’t have to just sit there and stew.

How To Turn Your Professional Envy Into A Career Tool
[Photo: Everett Collection via Shutterstock]

I used to proudly broadcast that I wasn’t a jealous person. “I’m confident, successful, and happy,” I’d think to myself, while flipping my hair over my shoulder and batting my eyelashes (not really, but you get it). “I have no reason to be envious of anybody!” But, then I quickly realized I was only lying to myself.


No, I’m not necessarily jealous in the sense that I can’t let my husband leave the house for a few hours without feeling the itch to constantly check in–he can grab a few beers with his buddies without me so much as even noticing at times. But, when it comes to my career success? Well, I become downright covetous.

To a certain extent, I think that’s natural. Our careers are competitive, so it’s expected that you’ll turn a little green with envy each time someone else reaches an achievement you’ve been working toward yourself.

But while a little bit of jealousy is anticipated, it’s still not necessarily productive. On the contrary, really–it can serve as a distraction that only slows you down. That is, unless you learn to harness it to give yourself a much-needed kick in the pants.

Sound impossible? I assure you, it’s not. To prove it, here are three times you’re sure to feel jealous in the office, as well as how you can use each one to boost your own motivation and reputation.

1. When Someone Else Scores A Promotion

Your coworker was just promoted. And, while it’s not even a position you were in line for, you can’t help but to feel a twinge of jealousy at the very thought of her pay increase and shiny new job title.

Sure, you respond to that office-wide email thread with a hearty, “Congratulations, Ashley!” and gladly indulge in a piece of that celebratory cake in the break room. But, on the inside? That green-eyed monster is slowly consuming you.


“When is it my turn?” you ponder to yourself as you pack up that leftover cake and stick it in the fridge. “I deserve a step up around here, too!”

How to use your jealousy. There’s nothing that can inspire an intense bout of envy quite like someone else in your workplace getting promoted. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t up for consideration or the new role isn’t even in your department–everyone in your office will suddenly feel slighted.

Rather than wallowing in your own self-pity and dreaming of the days you’ll get your own delicious “way to go!” ice-cream cake, you’re better off analyzing the situation to determine what steps you’ll need to take to reach that same milestone.

Was that newly promoted person there for a certain amount of time? Did he go above and beyond what was expected of him–such as frequently volunteering for the company’s blood drive? Did she recently reach some major achievement that became the catalyst for this next step?

Yes, you’re allowed to feel a little envious. But once you’ve taken a moment, set those feelings aside and take a good, hard look at the situation to determine what exactly you need to do to follow in those footsteps.

2. When Your Colleague Receives Praise

You’re in a team meeting when your supervisor openly compliments your coworker Rebecca on a job well done. “Kudos to Rebecca for churning out such a top-notch report under such a tight deadline,” he says in front of your entire team.


But what do you actually hear? Likely a little something like, “Rebecca is the greatest employee this company has ever had, and she’s putting the rest of you low-life schmucks to shame around here.”

Whenever someone else in your office receives recognition–be it praise or an official award–it’s only natural to feel a little envious of her success. But there’s something better you could be doing with your time and energy.

How to use your jealousy. First things first, make sure you recognize your coworker’s hard work as well. You may be jealous, but you still want to be an encouraging team player.

What next? Resist the urge to go head-to-head to this person. That type of passive-aggressive approach will only breed tension, and likely only make you look a little on the crazy side.

Instead, your best course of action is to file this person away as a resource who you can lean on when you’re feeling stuck or have specific questions. Obviously, Rebecca knows what it takes to not only get a project done–but get it done well. So, rather than resenting her for that, why not learn from her?

Do that and you’ll instantly turn the tables–a situation that previously existed to eat away at your confidence will now actually help you to continuously improve.


3. When Your Coworker Lands a Big Project

Your department is responsible for handling a ridiculously daunting project, and your boss is keeping his eyes peeled for one of you to spearhead the entire thing. You’re absolutely sure that you’ll be the chosen one who earns that coveted spot.

So when your boss announces that Jason will be leading the charge, you’re understandably surprised. This project is make or break–how could he possibly entrust it to Jason? What does he have that you don’t have?

We’ve all been there. Even if you didn’t particularly want the assignment (it means extra work, after all), you still feel as if your boss should’ve been knocking at your door just begging you to take it on.

But that’s not the way things played out, and now you’re left feeling envious of Jason–the one who apparently proved himself worthy enough of such a large responsibility.

How to use your jealousy. So you weren’t picked to head up the entire project. Yes, that’s a bit of a blow to your ego. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be involved and prove that you’re a worthwhile member of the team.

If the task is truly that important, Jason is likely going to need (and desperately want) some extra help. So drop those feelings of resentment, step up to the plate, and offer to take on some additional work.


You’ll strengthen a relationship with your teammate, get to learn some new things, and prove to your boss and coworkers that you’re willing to go the extra mile. With all of that, you’ll likely be the one gaining some well-deserved recognition soon.

We all feel jealous sometimes–particularly in our careers. But just because it’s a natural emotion, that doesn’t necessarily make it beneficial.

So, the next time you feel envy taking over in the office, remember these three situations and do your best to rise above. In the end, you’ll be much better off.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.