Putrid smell of professional envy

Putrid smell of professional envy

Once triggered, it is difficult to stop. It assumes a life of its own. Just as other instinctual forces programmed into nature’s survival mechanism, the deadliest of all sins called envy has a way which is more certain to it rather than the person carrying it.

Where does it come from? From social comparison? From greed? Ego? Being framed as sin envy is always deemed as originating from the not-so-good side of human personality. But, on slightly shifting the perspective, envy appears as a spark of human’s fundamental drive to grow and expand.

Far under the feeling of envy, it is the "sense of deprivation" which is at work. The painful recognition that I am lacking in something, which my neighbour or colleague or my partner has, is the virus in operation. Your colleague's promotion, new car of your neighbor, your friend's success in the business…anything can activate this virus and attack your emotional-intellectual mechanisms.

Deprivation in itself is a state charged with a strong sense of incompleteness. Whenever there is a feeling of incompleteness, the life energies collude and conspire to resolve it. Thereafter, individual’s thoughts, emotions, feelings, actions align together and establish a searching mode. This mechanism is not a sin. It is a manifestation of growth instinct--the instinct to expand—with which the creation has endowed each organism on the planet. And no organism is free from the clutches of it.

When in the clutch of this not so explicit instinctual force, there are two ways to deal with it. Either the individual can muster up the available resources to strive towards reducing the pain of sense of deprivation or he/she attacks the person who caused this pain of deprivation by dragging him down. So that both are at par and pain stops nagging for the time being. Anyway, both ways have their own side-effects. The first may raise the heat of competition while the other that of animosity. Both, in the long run, disrupts smooth functioning, melts bonhomie, chokes creativity and productivity of the individuals involved.

Hazards of envy

Many organizations are under the serious threat of this deadly sin called "envy". Their working climate remains struck and hardly move up the ladder of success just because of serious glitches that can be attributed to the relationships swaying under the influence of envy. In such organizations, in the first place, envy welcomes individual accomplishments which will be followed by formal praise and appreciation. Individual achievements will never find its way to collaboration in such organizations. In the long run, organizational climate will render itself opaque and end up itself as a misfit for culture of excellence. They celebrate mediocrity and miss the path to meritocracy. Like lethal cancerous cells, envy silently eats away the human resources so surreptitiously that nobody but an insightful, charismatic leader can make a timely diagnosis and attempt for curative measures.

Organizations, which are serving a social cause like education, health etc., are a perennial liability to social goodwill and enterprises. The organizations where leaders themselves are in the clutch of severe envy are well on deathbed. Such leaders will be paranoiac about any glimpse of excellence in their subordinates. They loathe collaboration but insecurely clinches to the hierarchy to see it intact at any cost. They don’t want to see anybody under their leadership going up.

Eliminate or transform envy---which one is possible?

A culture of sharing and collaboration is the fundamental requirement of the success of any organization. A good leader acknowledges the possible issues of envy in the professional space and knows how it can adversely affect productivity. He knows the alchemy for transforming envy into the constructive “energy for growth”.

How to beat envy in working place—tips for leaders

• Envy is an emotion woven into the fundamental drive of human beings to grow and expand. As it has survival value, it cannot be wiped off.

• It is a response error operating more or less involuntarily. It is possible to correct the error in response but it is impossible to suppress the response.

• Eliminating envy is impossible but transforming it into a growth force is 100% possible in an organizational setup

• Envy is the result of faulty learning that competition with others is the only way to excellence. Transforming envy into a constructive force requires replacing faulty beliefs with the fact that competition with oneself is the genuine path to excellence.

• As a subjective emotional state operating more or less involuntarily at the individual level, professional envy is more malleable and receptive to persuasive messages. So it can be tackled easily.

• For the same reason, it is easy to distinguish between the actions springing from envy/competition and those from genuine talent/interest

• A person in envy has abundant possibilities as he will be in a state of urgency to resolve his sense of deprivation. A good leader knows how to channelize this state by directing him/her to constructive ways of resolving it.

• A good leader recognizes the real aptitude and inclination of the person in envy and deliberately creates a set of working situations where he is likely to excel.

• A leader acknowledges envy as an emotion in play across interpersonal relationships in an organization and never considers it as sin or undesirable but as normal as any other forces in action.

Accept it

No organizational climate is that of a homogeneous group. It is largely a compendium of individuals with different skill sets potentialities, mind-sets, beliefs and cultures. The success of an organization depends on the genuineness of collaboration. Only a genuine culture of sharing and bonhomie can resolve the issues arising from inevitable diversity inside any organization. Forces like envy are a threat to it. They impede leader’s good intentions to elevate the potentialities manifested at the individual level to a collective level.

No organization likes to openly agree that professional envy often constricts the possibilities for smooth collaboration and creative intermixing of ideas, skills and values among its workers. Everybody wishes to push the issue of envy under the carpet and greet each other with a beaming smile, always cognizant of the heat of fierce completion and envy spreading around them-- wafting a putrid smell every now and then. But it is there. Accept it. It can be transformed.

About the Author

Dr Jeny Rapheal
Higher Secondary School Teacher.

Dr Jeny Rapheal holds a PhD in Psychology from Bharathiar University Coimbatore. She has also done double M.Sc.  one in Mathematics and the ot

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