There’s no doubt about it.
They kill productivity, ruin team morale, and cause unnecessary drama at work. Almost everyone has dealt with them.
What am I talking about, you ask?
As Robert Hare once famously said:
“Not all psychopaths are in prison – some are in the board room.”
So let’s face it – or rather let’s two-face it – some coworkers are a royal pain in the ass.
But what are the signs of insecure coworkers? And how do you handle it when you’ve come across one?
Let’s get into the good stuff. Ready?
6 obvious signs you’re dealing with jealous coworkers:
In his book, People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys, Dr. Mike Bechtle talks about dealing with the difficult people you can’t escape.
Here’s the deal:
One key to managing envy and jealousy in the workplace starts with recognizing the signs.
Do any of these apply to you?
- You have a coworker who tries to make you look bad.
This could be a colleague who broadcasts your errors – no matter how small – to other colleagues and managers.
- They attempt to ‘catch’ you doing something wrong.
Do you have a coworker that tracks your time? Or one that makes you feel like you’re constantly being watched?
- They’re unwilling to help.
There are times when exceling at work depends on the ability of your team to work together. If your coworker is unwilling to help out, then it’s a sign they want you to fail.
- You’re left out.
Do you ever find yourself left out of important email threads or meetings? Some of these could be harmless oversights, but always being excluded by the same person isn’t.
- They avoid contact
Coworkers who dislike you will sometimes limit their interactions with you. For example, they might communicate with you primarily via email, even though you work close by.
- They assume unauthorized power over you
Toxic coworkers will sometimes try to play boss even when they have no authority.
How do you handle jealous coworkers?
Step 1: Position Yourself for Success
Let’s face it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tangled web of workplace drama.
And when you’re dealing with toxic coworkers, your first inclination might be to confront them, be passive aggressive, or gossip about them.
Been there, done that?
As a career coach, I’ve studied challenging workplace relationships for years.
After reading Mike’s book, People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys, I learned that it’s truly possible to learn how to let go.
Here’s what it comes down to:
You should focus on doing the work you were assigned to do – and do it well. Let your actions speak for themselves.
Don’t lose sight of why you were hired in the first place:
To do a job.
You know how they say no one is irreplaceable?
I call bullstuff on that.
Here’s the deal:
Great employees are hard to find. When you do finally find them, you invest countless hours, time, and money into keeping them.
Think about it.
How many employees have you worked with that couldn’t care less?
The employees that constantly complain about Mondays. The employees who aren’t shy about telling everyone, “Um, that’s not my job.”
See what I’m saying?
Those employees are literally everywhere, but you’re not one of them.
So position yourself for success and be the great employee that’s hard to find.
If your boss is happy with your work, then your jealous coworkers will have no leg to stand on when it comes to undermining you.
So here’s what you do:
Take a minute to write down your top 3 most important job duties.
Let’s say you’re a customer service rep for a mid-sized company.
Your boss wants you to create an excellent customer service experience, make sales, and schedule appointments.
So now let’s put that into writing:
Customer Service Top 3
1. Give every customer a great customer experience
- Smile and greet every customer
- Listen, answer questions, and resolve customer problems
2. Make Sales
- Explain the benefits of the company’s XYZ program
- Ask every customer if they would like to join XYZ program
- Take a sales training or read a sales book to enhance your skills
3. Manage/Schedule Appointments
- Reserve the last 2 hours of the day for scheduling appointments
- Call to remind customers of upcoming appointments
Depending on your job, your top 3 list will look different, but you should get absolutely clear on what it takes to be great at your job.
While you’re at it, look at what other high-achievers in your field are doing. What can you learn from them?
Step 2: Understand Your Boss
Here’s a very important career lesson:
Get to know your boss and understand what makes them tick.
Some career experts call this realizing that your boss IS your job.
That’s right. Your job is not answering phone calls, responding to emails, or typing documents. Your job is managing your relationship with the person in charge.
Still with me?
I wrote an entire article on how to impress your boss, but here are a few highlights:
- Avoid “gray man” status.
This doesn’t mean you have to be in your supervisor’s face 24/7, but it does mean you need to be visible.
I once knew an employee who would duck and dive every time the boss came around. He would literally stop what he was doing and walk away if it meant avoiding his boss.
What do you think happened when performance reviews came around?
The boss told him that he didn’t “stand out” and he didn’t see what value the guy added to the company.
So what’s the key takeaway?
Let your boss see you work.
If you don’t, then you risk letting your jealous coworkers paint an inaccurate picture of you to your manager.
- Know what’s important to your boss
On a surface level, a waiter’s main job duty is to take orders and bring out food, right?
Right. But what if a restaurant manager also values employees who take the initiative to clean without being asked?
Know your job description so you can outperform it. That’s the fastest way to show how valuable you truly are.
Step 3: Keep a Paper Trail
The sad truth is that toxic coworkers will try to look for any reason to complain about you.
This means you need to start tracking deadlines, keeping a record of important decisions, and anything else they can try to use against you.
I had a former coworker “casually mention” to my boss that he thought I was late all the time.
Another coworker of mine overheard him telling our boss, “Have you heard from Jamie? Seems like his lunch has been awfully long today.”
That job didn’t have a traditional clock-in and clock-out system, so it was essentially his word against mine.
So what did I do?
I started leaving a post-it note on my computer that said:
“Left for lunch at 12:05pm. Be back by 1:05 pm.”
Next time, the conversation with my boss went something like this:
Boss: “Hey Jamie, we had another complaint that you’re taking longer on your lunch break. What’s going on?”
Me: “Oh, I remembered you mentioning that last time, so to clear up any confusion, I started leaving a post-it note on my computer. Now everyone can see when I left and when I’ll be back.” [Showed post-it note to boss]
Boss: “Oh, I see.”
Me: “If it helps, I can start giving you the heads up when I’m leaving for lunch.”
Boss: “Sure, that would help. Thanks!”
Since every job is different, you’ll have to get creative about what crossing your Ts and dotting your Is means at your job.
One reader shared this story with me:
“Back when I was a bartender, one of my jealous coworkers regularly complained to the manager that I never cleaned up after myself. To fix this, I started snapping a picture of the bar right before I clocked out of my shift. Next time the boss asked me about it, I showed her the picture of how clean the bar was when I left.”
Now don’t get me wrong:
It’s frustrating feeling like you have to go an extra step to cover your ass. I get it.
There will undoubtedly be times where you ask yourself, “Why should I even have to do this?”
But here’s the deal:
You have to be one step ahead of your difficult coworker. If you’re great at your job, have a great attitude, and keep your paper trail, then your coworker is just making themselves look bad by complaining about you.
Step 4: Be Kind to Yourself
Can I be honest?
I used to cringe every time I heard someone give the advice to “kill ’em with kindness.”
When someone is a jerk to you, then you want to be a jerk right back.
That’s just called being human.
But, I want to change the way you think about this.
This doesn’t mean you run over to Jealous Janet and kiss her ass. It just means you’re pleasant to be around…for your own sake.
You smile when you make eye contact. You keep a positive tone of voice. You’re a team player.
You’re kind to yourself.
Sure, it might feel good in the moment to vent, gossip, or be rude back to your jealous coworkers – but negative energy never wins.
Here’s the deal:
I’m confident that if you could turn back the hands of time, you’d see that Jealous Janet has had a LONG history of bad coworker dynamics.
You’re not the only one she’s ever tried to undermine.
And Rick the dick over there?
That guy was an asshole before you even joined the team, and he’ll continue to be an asshole when you get promoted or move on to something better.
If you can avoid the toxic coworker, then do it. But if you can’t, then be the awesome person I know that you are and take the high road.
When should I talk to my boss about it?
If you can still do your job well and maintain your happiness, then you should keep it to yourself.
Talking to your boss is your last-ditch effort.
But if a bad coworker is truly – and I mean truly – affecting your ability to perform your job, then a good boss will want to hear about it.
Here’s what you do:
Schedule a meeting with your supervisor when it’s convenient for him/her. Be professional and calm with your approach.
As an example, you might say something like this:
Lately, Michelle has been [describe the issue], and she’s done it several times [name a few specific incidents].
I respect Michelle and I love being part of this team, but it’s making it hard to do my work.
I want to handle this before it turns into a bigger problem. I’ve tried to resolve it on my own [name something you’ve tried], but it didn’t work.
I know there’s got to be a good solution, but I’m not seeing it clearly, so I wanted to ask for your help. Is there anything we can do to find a solution?”
This shows you’re not complaining or blaming your jealous coworkers. It shows you have a positive attitude and want to make things better – not just vent.
And let me say this straight:
As a boss, if you came into my office and calmly expressed that to me, I’d be seriously impressed.
I’d walk away feeling happy that you’re on my team – and it’d also bring to my attention that you’re good leadership material because you can stay calm and cool under pressure.
What if my boss doesn’t do anything about it?
I’ll be honest with you.
Being a great employee and addressing the issue with your boss doesn’t always work.
So now what?
You have two choices. You can either stick it out or find a better job.
Search for something better.
Better company culture, better benefits, and better pay.
Call on your professional network to help you find something.
Did you know that as many as 85% of jobs are filled through networking?
This could mean attending career events or sending a casual email to a former coworker that says:
I’m currently looking for something in XYZ field. If you know of anything please let me know.
You’ll also want to brush up on your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters and headhunters scan that site like crazy, so make sure your profile is on point.
And lastly, make sure you know how to get your resume past the scanner.
I can’t tell you how many employees miss an opportunity for an interview just because they didn’t format their resume to fit the ATS guidelines.
There’s no sugarcoating it.
Crappy coworkers suck.
If you’re craving some extra insight on how to deal with difficult people, then there’s an entire book dedicated to it:
People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys
That book is better than therapy. The real-life examples are hilarious and it shows you exactly how to handle difficult situations.
The bottom line is that we’ve all dealt with jealous coworkers. But it’s time to take back control of your life.
Are you in?