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Disruptive jealousy, the hidden cost of business

When jealousy exists at work, gossip is usually a part of the resulting problem. Employees gossip about workplace relationships, often making negative remarks about co-workers or bosses they dislike or envy. Such envy makes the workplace a battle zone where negative emotions and animosity run wild.

As certain employees attain good fortune at work, other employees might experience jealousy. Jealousy in the workplace can occur as envious glances, unpleasant comments or attempts to sabotage the victim's success.

If left unchecked, such behaviour may result in a discontented work environment. Whether you're the jealous person or the target of such behaviour, overcoming it is necessary to maintain a positive workplace environment.

Acceptable jealousy

Jealousy stems from negative feelings, it's not without consequences, which might include reduced performance, withdrawal, job dissatisfaction and stress. The cost of jealousy to the business driven by waste of time and lack of cooperation among team members can be severe though there is no perfect science to quantify it.

Although jealousy is generally a disruptive emotion, it is OK sometimes. For example, your co-worker's success can prompt you to work even harder to realise your full potential. Instead of becoming mired in jealousy, you look at the successful person as a role model which motivates you to improve yourself. If you were unfairly passed over for a promotion, it can cause you to consider your job-satisfaction level, and if applicable, do something about it.

If you're at the receiving end of jealousy, how you handle it determines your future with the company. By maintaining a high level of awareness, you can detect an employee who shows signs of jealousy and possibly defuse it.

For example, when a disgruntled employee shows signs of dislike towards you, try to squash his jealousy before it blossoms into full-blown resentment. Acknowledge his positive qualities, give him credit where it's due and stay humble about your achievements.

Refrain from displaying jealousy towards your co-workers because jealousy is often easily recognisable by others. If you display negative behaviour towards your colleagues, they might feel justified in treating you the same way. Try to be happy for others and refrain from measuring their success against yours.

Mitigating the issue

There may be times when an employee is bent on destroying your good fortune. Try to counter his efforts by not adding fuel to the fire. For example, if he gossips about you, don't respond by spreading rumours about him. Instead, ignore him and try to be a pleasant and hardworking employee.

If he slanders you, sabotages your work, grows confrontational, or becomes an obstacle to your productivity, keep a journal of each offence. Write down the date, time and details of each offence. Gather as much proof as possible before reporting the issue to your manager or human resources department.

Proof may include offensive emails that he sent you and any witnesses to his confrontational attitude.

Keep in mind that it's your word against his, and he might be gathering evidence against you. Therefore, always conduct yourself in a professional manner.

While you may be tempted to hurl insults at the person who was trash-talking you, firing back will only diminish your professionalism. Take the high road. Avoiding unnecessary interactions with jealous colleagues can help defuse a hostile work environment.

If the situation gets to a point where your productivity suffers, it's time to do something about it. However, it's imperative to pick the right words and use the right tone. The best way to approach your co-worker is in a non-aggressive manner.

Address him or her with specific concerns instead of accusations of jealousy. Promote open communication in the workplace. Treat all employees fairly with no favouritism. Put high performers in mentor roles, which make them targets of admiration rather than envy.

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