When I was in high school, I got to take my first and only law class. The professor was an adored young lawyer who loved engaging his students in the ideas of the law. The semester final exam was a mock trial. He split the class into legal teams and had them research and present the case with him as the judge. He held the trial on the auditorium stage.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

My role in the mock trial was lead lawyer for my team. I got to give an opening statement, ask witnesses questions, present evidence, and make a closing argument. My opposing counsel was the guy I went to the seventh grade CYO dance with. It felt odd going up against him. But, a good grade was at stake and I knew I had to give it my best and try to beat him. So, I went all out. I argued and used my voice to drive my points. I made bold statements and challenged his arguments. I recall feeling almost outside of myself – as if I was watching the whole thing and thinking, “Who are you?” and, “Where did this passion come from?” I was in the zone and felt alive.

I Didn’t Win & But You’d Think I Did

What I didn’t tell you yet was there was no way I could win. The evidence clearly supported the other side – and they knew it. Before the beginning of the trial, they had even made jokes about how easy the win would be. Thus, my goal per my teacher was to try to discredit their argument as much as I could. As expected, I didn’t win, but my teacher did provide a much leaner sentence than he could have imposed as the judge. He told the class it was my persuasion in the courtroom that earned the lesser sentence.

As we left that day, I ran up to my old dance date and his team to enthusiastically talk about the debate. I thought we were going to talk about how fun and challenging it was. After all, they had won. What I got was a chilly reception proceeded by angry comments about me not having to be so intense. I was stunned and hurt. Confused and angry. Their comments and feedback were nothing like what the rest of the class and the teacher had said. What had I done wrong?

A Lesson in Jealousy Management

That night, I told my parents what happened over dinner. They had known how important this trial was to me. When I explained the angry reaction I got from my peers, I looked at my dad and said, “What did I do wrong?” He laughed, and said “You beat them and they’re jealous. Give it a few days and they’ll be fine.” I’m sure you are thinking, “Geez. Couldn’t she tell it was jealousy?” But honestly, in that scenario, I was working with some really smart students who were also close friends. People I had known and collaborated in school with for years. This was the first time I had seen a reaction from them like this. It was my first experience with jealousy in the workplace.

Jealousy = Compliment

Since then, I’ve encountered more than a few jealous people on-the-job. They are easy to spot. There’s an old saying, “Anger is fear turned outward.” I say, “Jealousy is fear realized.” When someone is jealous, they are conflicted about how hard they are working while not seeing the results someone else is getting. They aren’t mad at us, they are mad at their lack of control over their situation. Their fear of failure is confronting them. I do my best to remember that when working with jealous people. If you think about it: It’s a form of a compliment. And I think compliments are a very important career resource. (See my post here on how to give a good one.)Granted, jealousy doesn’t deliver the compliment in the best way, but it should still make us lean in and keep working toward our goal. Why? While not as nice as a true compliment, it still tells us we are doing something right. And, when I feel jealous? I try to address my fear and figure out what I can do to get the results I want.

What experiences have you had with jealousy in your career? How do you handle it?

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of a popular career advice site,CAREEREALISM,and currently run the career coaching program,CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!

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