“How did she do that?” the slightly irritating voice asked.
“I don’t know, but who cares? She got what she wanted” answered the lower, deeper one.
“I bet she had help. From you-know-who, you know?” said, even more irritating, the first voice.
“For sure. How else could she?” answered, lower and deeper, the second one.
That was part of a dialogue I overheard between two colleagues I had, some time ago. They were discussing someone I knew, who had achieved in no more than a few months, some success. Not like she had won an award or anything like that, but it was clear she was doing great. I happened to know her and her manager and was happy for her.
They didn’t know I knew this person of course yet the conversation was happening in whispered tones when I bumped into them and overheard just that small part of it. They quickly changed the subject of course, but only for a few seconds. I knew they were talking about her though, as I had seen these two pointing at my friend before from a distance and muttering in semi-silence.
I ignored what I had heard and started talking to them. After a few minutes and as they didn’t know about me and this person, they quickly resumed the conversation I had overheard and included me on it.
“So, what do you think about that one?” the irritating one asked.
“Who do you mean?” I answered, almost clueless.
“You know, the one what always comes with high heels.” answered the irritating one.
“Don’t you come with high heels to?” I asked.
“Yes, but you know what I mean. Hers are different, too new and too high, not very corporate.” said the deep voice with a sneer.
“Well, not sure I know who you are talking about”. I said.
“Of course you do, everyone notices her, always dressing fancily. I bet she’s all about getting attention, that’s how she got there.” said the irritating one while the other one made a vain effort to mute a giggle.
“Oh, I think I know who you are talking about. I recommended her for the job actually, I’m so glad she’s doing so great she’s getting all this attention! I’ll go tell her. Excuse me guys!”. was my final answer, as I turned and walked away from the stunned couple.
That was one of the few times I remember I felt so good about something I said, yet I’m pretty sure I could have done without the drama. It’s a good thing one ages and gets to learn from the past. Even though it wasn’t a big bad thing, I am still not really proud of my answer but I can tell you something: it did feel good walking away from them, feeling their stares and dropping jaws, not knowing what to do next. They could have just called me back but of course, they didn’t.
Remember that envy alone is just a feeling, and as with every other feeling once it burns it becomes evident. I would say the most common way of showing envy is by gossiping, though I can not claim that every gossip comes from envy alone. You can read more about how bad gossip is for your career on this article: “Career advice #3: feedback is your friend, gossip is not.”
I have encountered this sort of situation every now and then, and it wouldn’t be fair to say I was never envious of someone. That is only human yet because it is something we are taught to frown upon, few people recognize envy as something they’ve felt or had to deal with internally at some point of their lives.
I can say I never felt so envious about someone or something as to talk like these people were talking about my friend. Envy has never felt good, and it has never done anything for me. We’ve all felt envious of something or someone going through a moment we wish we were going through. I’ve learnt how to use that as fuel, something powerful to change my attitude towards something more constructive. It wasn’t easy though, as changes never are.
Having wishes of doing better is not enough to dispel envious thoughts or feelings. I’ve seen my face when I’m envious, and I’ve seen others look at me funny. Being envious can’t help bettering performance. It clouds judgement and it paints people with a color that’s not their own. It has the power of changing them and this is the hidden danger people usually don’t see.
But so does hope and hard work, as well as honesty and well wishing. I discovered that there’s nothing inhuman about envy so it’s natural that at a given point we all feel a little bit envious about something. I also discovered that the bigger the Company, the bigger the chances are I will meet more envious people. It’s not something I can avoid, and I haven’t seen any huge Corporation that just doesn’t have this sort of people inside. And there’s nothing to do about that from a hiring perspective, as you can’t filter people out because of how they feel about other people .
Envy makes people look bad, it blocks their ability to share success. It blocks them from achieving great things even though they might be out there for them. Envious people will find a way to instill disdain around themselves and the reasons will be selfish or petty, no matter how you look at them or explain them: they just can’t see others in a better place they are on. There might not be very good reasons for feeling that way, other than being human but there is definitely a reason why you may have to change envy for something more useful: it will drag you down a path that only becomes harder and harder to climb it back up.
You will see it in their faces. Their eyes look different. They squint a lot. They smirk a lot. They mumble and whisper a lot and they will never confront as there is no possible confrontation that bodes well for them. Envy doesn’t provoque anything directly but rather subvert actions. That is why the bigger the context, the more subtle those actions are yet make no mistake: they will be there. If there’s someone who’s envious about you or whatever you’re doing, they will find a way to show it, and you might not even see it coming until is upon you, and drama will unfold.
Envy is never your best color, no matter how good you think you’re hiding it. It is not a nice thing to see, and not a nice one to promote by sharing other people’s envies. You can do better than I did back then and just walk away from it, unless you prefer confronting which might increase those feelings or redirect them towards you.
The color of envy is really not green as popular belief will tell you. The true color of envy will look back at you from any mirror you look, once you realize you might be feeling it. The first step you need to take is ask yourself: are you?