Envy - the torment of both envier and envied

Victoria Gimeno. Director Institutional Relations. IE University

1 November 2016

Envy is a negative emotion which can only be addressed by searching inside yourself to find the best you have to offer and then working on it.

Talking about her career, one of my coachees told me that in a company where she had worked years earlier, they promoted her, and she in turn wanted to promote one of her work colleagues.  To her great surprise her colleague refused the promotion, and a few days later angrily asked her “who did she think she was to promote her?” My coachee was somewhat perplexed, because she could not understand her attitude.

Following on from this conversation, my coachee started to feel frozen out in her department. She noticed that when the team went to have a coffee she was left behind, that they didn’t include her in collections for joint presents, that when she walked past people having a conversation they would fall silent, etc. In other words, she felt isolated in general.

A few years down the line, when my coachee was by then working in a good position in a different firm, her old firm downsized and the woman who had not accepted her promotion was made redundant.

As well as being upsetting, the situation described above had an impact on my coachee’s approach to work. Looking back at what had happened, seeing her workmate’s indignation at being promoted by someone who she saw as being at the same level as her, we can only conclude that she was motivated by envy - the kind of envy that others occasionally feel towards us. It affects us and leaves us defenseless, given that there is nothing you can do to stop someone from being envious of you.  

Envy is a negative emotion that translates into anger and spite. An envious person cannot feel compassion for others, being capable only of being toxic, critical and grouchy. They are incapable of learning and transformation. The envious person focuses on the difference between what they have/achieve and what their victim has/achieves, and is unable to compensate for this difference through achievements that would offset it. The only way to deal with feeling envious is to seek the best of yourself and develop your skills. It is a learning process that converts envy into admiration, and gives you the confidence and strength to seek out further achievements of your own.

The person who is at the receiving end of envy, cannot do anything to stop someone from envying them, because even if they act discreet and humble, the problem does not stem from them, but they do have to learn to live with it and not let it affect their self-esteem. Hence it is important to identify an envious person, recognize the emotion, know why they are acting that way, and not let their snubs and malicious gossip bring you down and make you suffer. And of course, be aware of the risks you may run to help you consider what measures to take. 

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