In parts one and two of this blog I talked about the highly destructive nature of envy, its origins and some of the things that can trigger it in people.  In this final part of the blog I’m going to consider some of the ways in which envy may camouflage itself so that you may not even realize you’re on the receiving end of a person’s envious attack.  I’ll also spend a moment thinking about how you could respond if you are.

How envy disguises itself

  • Attacks

The presence of envy may be obvious and overt but it may not.  Criticism can be a sign of it.  Not constructive criticism which is designed to help somebody but destructive criticism.  Say, for example, an envious boss who is insecure about their academic ability and their presentational skills has a junior colleague who has a good academic track record and is an inspiring speaker.

In a major sales pitch the junior colleague delivers a powerful presentation which impresses everyone in the room.  The next day the boss is frosty for several hours and finally takes the colleague aside to tear a strip off them.  They were ‘showing off about how much they know, the talk went above everyone’s heads, it strayed from the usual conventions for this type of presentation’ and so on.  You get the idea.  Envy.

  • Indifference

Alternatively envy may simply appear as indifference.  The colleague gets no feedback at all from the boss about the presentation – or about any presentation for that matter.  There’s only silence, as there is for most aspects of their work.  They have little idea how they’re doing.  Or they begin to think that maybe they’re not much good.  But what appears on the surface to be indifference may underneath be an active process of spoiling.  The boss may be unconsciously (or semi-consciously) putting these feelings of insecurity or failure into the colleague because that’s how the boss feels about him or herself in comparison.

That leads me to add that the personality type who is perhaps most liable to intense envy is the pronounced narcissist – the individual who seems to have a very high opinion of themselves and loves being in the limelight.  The high opinion is often masking something very different at the centre of themselves.

What to do about envious attacks

I wish there was a simple answer to this.  If you’re the object of someone’s envy, how you deal with it will depend in part on the degree of envy that you’re being subjected to.  If it’s mild envy then it may be possible to challenge the person – disagreeing, for instance, if they’re trying to torpedo a project you’re doing.  Alternatively, it may be possible to talk to the envious person calmly about what’s going on.  Remember, though, that envy is one of the hardest emotions to admit to.  Give reasons for what you’re saying.  Deep down they may know you’re right – and on their case – even if they don’t admit it.

If the person’s very envious then, as I said at the start of these blogs, you need to be very alert indeed.  Alert to the fact that what’s happening is about them not you despite how they may be trying to present things.  It may be possible for you to put up with their behaviour because it’s unlikely that they will accept the fact of their envy.  If things are very bad and virulent envy is at play, however, then it’s not impossible that you may have to leave the environment where the seriously envious person is.  I don’t like the idea of someone getting away with dreadful behaviour any more than you probably do but if you’re working (for example) with someone who’s highly envious your practical options may be limited.  Senior colleagues may or may not be able to see what’s happening.

And what if you’re the envious one?

Well done for admitting it to yourself.  How about considering going into therapy to work through some of the deep-seated issues that have given rise to this particular difficulty in you?  I say that because the origins of envy, as we’ve seen, may be very deep-seated and you may indeed need help to work with them.  But a high level of honesty would be required.