How to Use Envy to Your Advantage at Work

It’s easy to compare yourself to other people, especially those with whom you work a lot, such as your coworkers. And while no one is going to be jealous of a colleague, sometimes it just happens. But the good news is, you can use that feeling to improve your productivity. Dr. Camilla Johnson, Associate Dean and Professor at San Jose State University, refers to this in an article for Psychology Today . Here’s what you need to know.

Different types of envy

First of all: what kind of envy? In Johnson’s words, “Jealousy is an emotion caused by the fact that others have relatively more than you.” But it’s important to remember that there are different types of envy. Johnson explains it this way :

The typical response to envy is to reduce the mismatch between you and the other. This can include demoting another person to your level, directly or indirectly, raising yourself to that level, or deciding that the whole area of ‚Äč‚Äčcomparison is worthless.

Benign vs. malicious

Dutch marketing professor and human behavior expert Dr. Niels van de Ven says there are two types of envy : benevolent and malicious. “Benign jealousy is what leads to increased motivation to improve one’s own position, while malicious envy leads to lower motivation to harm the position of the taller person,” explains Johnson.

We used to think that any type of envy or jealousy is bad, but benign jealousy is a different matter: it has more to do with feelings of dissatisfaction with oneself, rather than negative feelings towards someone else.

How to use good envy to your advantage

If you’ve found that how you feel about a coworker is mild envy, you can take advantage of that as well. Benign jealousy comes from admiration, not resentment, and therefore can push you to work harder. According to Johnson, here’s how to do it:

Focus on what is in your control and the results you want. When people focus on the characteristics of the other person rather than their own goals, they get stuck. Instead, you may need to change jobs, look for areas of success, or try to find mentorship and advice to improve your status.


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