Jealousy at Work Stops Work
Q: I am in my 30s and have a degree in marketing. I had three people reporting to me at my job, but I took what I thought was a positive risk and accepted a job at a newly formed company. The owner is a few years older than I am. He said he wasn't moving up fast enough, so he left to start his own company. When I interviewed with him, he said it would be great to have someone who could potentially be a partner. I thought, "Here's a guy who would treat me like a partner because of my experience and abilities."
He liked my ideas for projects, which included client presentations, and we were off to a great start. After he complimented my work for several months, he turned sarcastic and didn't solicit ideas from me as often. I thought this change in attitude would be temporary, maybe due to having a hard time in his personal life, which he keeps fairly private.
His curt demeanor continued, so I thought he might be jealous (I am more creative and savvier in business than he is). I've never run into this kind of attitude from a guy, and I don't know how to handle it. I want this to work because it's my ticket to becoming a partner and running a business.
A: You've run into a snag because he has not behaved as you expected. Don't blame yourself. You could not have foreseen this, as you didn't know him, his background or his family and friends. People can often be blinded by opportunities to advance their career beyond what could be expected had they stayed in a secure job at an established company.
You have to try to improve the relationship, even if it's not likely and may only be a temporary fix. Be sensitive to all possible reasons for his change in relating to you. If he thinks you outperform him, you're a threat to him -- whether real or not. Don't talk about hoping to become a partner: This could emphasize his feelings that you're better than him and increase the discord. Both of you being millennials may also make it harder for him to accept your success, as he expected you to be his equal.
Carolyn M. Campbell MSW, LCSW, BCD based in Chicago and specialized in adult psychotherapy, suggests this business owner may very well be jealous and unable to recognize the feeling. Because he may not be conscious of it, he might distance himself from you the more he likes your work product. As his jealousy intensifies, you will become a great threat to his self-esteem, if you are not already.
An example Campbell cites is of an emotionally needy client who works hard to receive constant praise, and with each compliment, she works harder. Fortunately, her boss is secure within herself and realizes the employee's excellence makes her look good as a leader. Your boss seems unable to accept that you could greatly increase and advance his business, even though it would ultimately be to his benefit. His emotional state may not make sense to you and especially for the success of his business, but his lack of confidence won't allow him to appreciate your value.
Campbell's prognosis for this situation is not good for the long term. Your inner confidence and impressive work product may sink him into a deeper level of insecurity, which will increase the divide between you two and destroy the possibility for a partnership.
Jealousy is an unseemly and insidious trait. If you want to stay in your job, you may have to stifle who you are -- your abilities and drive for success -- which is not a positive goal for anyone. Also, you are not there to become his therapist, nor are you qualified to. It may be to your benefit to accept that the opportunity was not meant to be and move on. When interviewing for a new job, your reason for leaving could be that a potential partnership didn't materialize. This way, you can add your accomplishments to your resume.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.