Ask Steve: My Career Is Motivated By Jealousy!

Hello all, it's Steve, and I'm back with another "Ask a Progeek" which may be dangerously close to becoming a series.  We'll see, it depends on what kind of requests I get.  That's a blatant hint, by the way, so send me your delicate personal career problems and I'll talk about them in public (anonymously).

In one of my recent discussions, a progeek I was talking to brought up the fact of jealousy as a career drive and what it meant.  I actually see this a lot, so that mutated into this week's question – "How to deal with jealousy in a career."

Well in a word, it's a bad thing.

Seriously, if jealousy is a major motivator for you, you're going to have problems:

  • You won't be motivated by an actual need to achieve, to use your skills, or enjoy what you're doing.  This literally leads you at the mercy of external motivators.
  • You won't develop your skills properly – they will be based on "beating" someone or "showing them up."  This is likely to develop very narrow skillets.
  • You'll be tempted to sabotage others as opposed to build your own abilities – with all the collateral damage and ethical issues that entails.
  • You'll mess with networking because you won't work on connecting with people – and also you may be kind of an ass to people.
  • You can't give – or receive – proper critiques.
  • You won't see the big picture, so you'll make poor decisions.

So yes, motivation by jealousy?  Bad idea.  It happens to all of us, but if it seems to be a major driver for your career and life, you have a problem – or are going to have one to come.

I think that this is an odd risk for us progeeks because being driven people, we are vulnerable to this, but also being internally driven and a bit eccentric, we're also less vulnerable.  It's a strange thing, really, so I cant say how common it is.

But if you've "got" the green-eyed monster egging you on, how do you deal with it?

  • Realize the above points – Jealousy is often self-defeating and outright destructive when it gets out of hand.
  • Have a sense of humor.  Seriously.  Lightening up a bit about yourself helps.
  • Recognize this happens to everyone period.  It's OK, you can admit it.  The people you're jealous of probably have had bouts of it as well.
  • Go on and admit this and "feel" through it.  Stew in your jealousy and get to know it and then get over it (preferably with a sense of humor).
  • Get in touch with your other motivations as best you can – by doing something you like, etc.  Keep strengthening these connections – fannish/geeky activities are excellent for that.
  • Personal growth.  No, I'm not being silly here, you have to make personal development a goal and work at it via meditation, self-help, exercise, personal exploration, etc.  If you have a habit of that, fixing this is part of it.
  • Have some sympathy towards yourself – we all do dumb things.

Jealousy is a very destructive force, and we can miss its influence or worse mistake it for feelings of righteousness or justice.  In a life, in a career, it's very toxic.

If you need treatment, there's a plan to start with. 

Steven Savage