In the workplace, navigating the dynamics between colleagues can sometimes feel like tiptoeing through a minefield.

While we often associate jealousy and rivalry with high school drama, these feelings can persist well into adulthood, particularly in professional settings where competition and ambition run high. Moreover, they can manifest in unexpected places, even with your boss.

Recognising signs of jealousy from your boss can be crucial in maintaining your sanity and success at work.

In this article, I explore seven subtle cues that might indicate your boss is harbouring envy toward you and offer tips on how to handle such situations gracefully.

To watch the extended YouTube version, click here.

The 7 Signs of Jealousy

1. Excessive Criticism Coupled with Lack of Feedback

Constructive criticism or ‘feedback’ is a vital part of professional growth. We all need it. It’s important to our personal development. After all, we don’t learn from the things we do well; we learn from our mistakes and challenges.

However, when criticism feels more like nit-picking or judgment or feels very personal without any constructive feedback, it might be a sign that your boss is envious.

If you feel like you’re being singled out and the criticism or judgment is unwarranted or excessive, that could indicate jealousy.

As I’ve said in many of my videos, bullies build themselves up by putting others down!

2. Micromanagement

Micromanagement is often a sign of mistrust, insecurity or both! If your boss constantly hovers over your shoulder, scrutinising every move you make, it could indicate they feel threatened by your competence or potential for success.

However, it can also be a symptom of imposter syndrome. When we feel insecure about our ability to do our role (as we often do when we first start a new role), we tend to lean toward what we know; for many people, especially following promotion, what they do know are the tasks of their subordinates.

3. Undermining Your Authority

Have you ever noticed your boss undermining your authority in front of colleagues or delegating some of your tasks without consulting you?

This behaviour suggests a lack of respect for your role and accomplishments and can be driven by jealousy and deep-rooted feelings of insecurity.

4. Taking Credit for Your Ideas

One of the most blatant signs of jealousy is when your boss steals the credit for your ideas or accomplishments.

They might present your suggestions as their own in meetings or fail to acknowledge your contributions to successful projects.

Someone secure in themselves, and their abilities feel no need to do this. They take great joy in watching their subordinates grow or even surpass them. Knowing they’ve had a hand in their success is often reward enough for them.

5. Hostility

Jealousy can manifest as irrational hostility towards someone perceived as a threat. If your boss displays unwarranted aggression or hostility towards you, it’s a strong sign of underlying envy.

Again, people who are secure in themselves and emotionally intelligent will not need to be hostile. If they do have an issue with you, they will address it in an adult way—swiftly and timely.

6. Sabotaging Your Opportunities

A jealous boss may actively sabotage your chances for advancement or recognition within the company.

They might withhold information about potential opportunities, exclude you from important meetings, or give you unmanageable deadlines to set you up for failure.

They may even communicate untruths or half-truths during succession planning meetings (I’ve witnessed this more than a few times in my previous HR career). For example, they may say that you’re not ready for advancement to deliberately block your promotion prospects.

7. Isolation and Alienation

Lastly, if you find yourself isolated or alienated from your team despite your efforts to collaborate and contribute, it could be a sign that your boss is fostering a toxic work environment out of jealousy.

I’ve mentioned this in previous articles. Isolation often means deliberately omitting you from circulation lists of important communications, not inviting you to ‘team’ events or meetings, or even creating a separate WhatsApp group (this is a fairly recent one that I’ve come across probably half a dozen times in the last couple of years).

Alienation can take the form of gossiping, talking about you behind your back, or even turning others against you. In cases of narcissistic bullying, the bully may use other people to do their bidding, ramping up the cruelty. We call those people ‘flying monkeys’ after the minions who did the Wicked Witch’s bidding in The Wizard of Oz.

The Wrap-Up

Addressing boss jealousy requires a combination of self-awareness, assertiveness, and strategic communication.

Here’s a quick list of some steps you can take to mitigate its impact:

  1. Document Incidents: Keep a record of instances where you feel your boss’s behaviour is driven by jealousy, including dates, times, witnesses and specific details.

  2. Seek Feedback: Request constructive feedback from your boss to gain insights into areas where you can improve and demonstrate your value to the organisation. 

  3. Communicate Openly: Initiate a candid conversation with your boss to address any concerns or misunderstandings, emphasising your commitment to collaboration and professional growth. I would always recommend doing this sooner rather than later. These things never go away on their own.

  4. Build Allies: Cultivate relationships with colleagues and mentors who can offer support and advocate on your behalf, helping to counteract the negative influence of a jealous boss. 

  5. Focus On Professional Development: Invest in continuous learning and skill development to enhance your expertise and credibility, positioning yourself as a valuable asset to the organisation.

  6. Consider Escalation: If attempts to address your boss’s jealousy directly prove unsuccessful, consider seeking guidance from HR or senior leadership to address the issue through formal channels.

  7. Evaluate Your Options: Assess the long-term viability of your current role and consider alternative career paths or opportunities that align with your goals and values – this might be within your current organisation or externally.

Recognising the signs of a jealous boss and taking proactive steps to address it is essential for maintaining a healthy work environment, advancing your career and protecting your physical and mental well-being.

By fostering open communication, building alliances, and focusing on professional growth, you can navigate workplace dynamics with confidence and resilience, ultimately achieving success despite the challenges posed by envy and insecurity.

What Next?

In the extended YouTube version of this article, I explain how to deal with each of the 7 signs of jealousy in much more detail. You can watch it here.

If you do head over to YouTube, please be sure to hit the ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’ buttons. It seems like such an insignificant thing to do, but it really does make a huge difference in helping me grow the channel.

As always, thanks for your continued support.

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