Jealousy helps you get ahead

Oct 30 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

As I was preparing for today's post, I came across an interesting article about jealousy in the workplace. Hardly newsworthy stuff - after all, jealousy is possibly one of man's basest instincts. Yet this article hit on an aspect of jealousy in the workplace that I hadn't considered before: that it's acceptable.

Growing up with a younger brother, I don't ever recall being encouraged to be jealous of him or others. In fact, I'd dare say it was the opposite. But things are a bit different in 2007.

The author of the piece, Gary Topchik, who published a book on managing negativity in the workplace, argues that jealousy can be a great motivator - that it pushes you to bigger and better things (salaries).

To back that theory up, a study by John Schaubroeck and Simon Lam showed that respondents (bank tellers) with a jealous streak demonstrated superior job performance down the road compared to those who don't.

While this seems completely plausible, and study results don't lie, it seems somewhat unhealthy to me to let a negative influence (and a pretty non-negligible character flaw) be your Tony Robbins-esque path to success, betterment, and self-fulfillment.

Such attitudes perpetuate the age-old, yet still ridiculous, notion of "keeping up with the Joneses" that has led to other problems outside the workplace Ė especially in recent months.

From a managerial stand point, jealousy should probably be considered a dangerous weapon that is used carefully. Allowing inter-team jealousies to go too far or too long risks creating a personality imbalance within the workplace that may be very difficult (indeed, impossible) to mend.

Perhaps it might be wiser for people to find other motivational factors for improving their work performance. Betting on a negative to bring positive just doesn't seem worth the risk.