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How to Handle a Jealous Coworker

It is possible to protect yourself and improve your relationship.

Key points

  • Envious colleagues are jealous and act out because of this insecurity.
  • Take the steps to protect yourself while also improving your relationship.
  • Be sincere yet firm when communicating with a jealous colleague.
Yan Krukov/Pexels
Source: Yan Krukov/Pexels

It can be difficult to know why a colleague is behaving negatively. Sometimes, a coworker's negative behavior toward you may have nothing to do with you or with your work performance. The colleague may suffer from a personality disorder or act with hostility toward everyone in the office. There may be something going on in the coworker's personal life that has nothing to do with work; yet the colleague brings this negativity to the workplace. This blog post focuses on dealing with a difficult coworker when jealously is a likely bit not inevitable motive.

Envious colleagues jealously begrudge you the praise you receive. These peers are resentful. They want what you have. More than that, they believe they should have what you have. The worst part of envy is that it erodes the spirit and eats up energy that could have been put to better use. But, until envious colleagues can let go of their jealousy and anger over your having what is rightfully theirs, they can become consumed with getting revenge. You may be totally innocent and find yourself the victim of spiteful, childish behavior.

What You’re Thinking

I worked for four weeks on that project to make it a success, and everyone’s praised me and told me what a great job I did. Except for Johnny. He’s too self-centered to be happy for me. He said, “Congrats,” but I can feel his hostility and envy. I don’t know why he seems to consider me an enemy. My instincts tell me to be on guard for a disguised attack.

An Envious Colleague’s Thoughts

I can’t understand why everyone is making such a fuss over Melanie. I could have done it better if only I’d been given that assignment. I don’t think it was just luck that landed her that project. I wonder what she did to get it. I’ll have to dig up some dirt about her because I’m sure she told some lies about me, or else I’ve have been handed that assignment. I’ll get even and she’ll never know what hit her.


Your goal is to protect yourself and, if possible, help your colleague think more positively.

1. Keep your talks on a high and friendly level. Don’t get into an argument, especially not with others present.

2. Convey that each person’s effort is judged on its own merit. One’s work isn’t good because someone else’s is bad, or valuable because someone else’s is not valuable. Each person’s work stands as good or bad by itself.

3. Encourage your colleague. Help them define their personal goals and develop their own special skills and expertise. This will bolster their sense of self-worth.

Tactical Talk

You: Johnny, I don’t want to argue about that. We can be civil to each other. If you can’t talk about this other project now, then let’s talk about it later. (Then leave.)

Or: Johnny, you have a real talent for making training videos. Have you ever considered asking the boss if you could take that seminar he mentioned last week?

Tip: Disarm envious colleagues with an honest compliment. Just when they are all set to hate you, make them like you. Express admiration for whatever they do well, talk about their interests, and offer helpful suggestions for them to mull over what may not have occurred to them before.

Proceed with Caution

When colleagues act in a jealous manner, don’t let their anger become contagious and infect your good judgement. Protect yourself. For those circumstances where you cannot handle a jealous colleague alone, quickly contact HR or the appropriate resources to get the help that you need.

Copyright© 2022 Amy Cooper Hakim

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