How to handle jealousy in the office.

I received the below great question a few days after my Art of War for Product Managers and High-Performing Professionals.  I thought you might be interested in the answer as well.

Q: Many senior employees work under my lead. In this case, many other senior employees think that what a lucky me. Jealousy is coming up from them. Do you have any tips for me as new entrant in product management to face this kind of condition?

Thank you for writing me. And congratulations for getting such an amazing position! You deserve it.
I do understand about jealousy. Jealousy is more about your senior employees’ confidence level in themselves. If one is competent, well-balanced and talented – there is no need to be jealous or even feel a need to defend ourselves. Even understanding this, you still may have some conflicts in the office.

3 tips to reduce:

  1. Take on the attitude of service. They are senior employees and know a great deal about their area of expertise. Give them their due respect in their field. Acknowledge that, even though you feel they are working under your lead, you are actually in a service position. They know way more about their jobs than you do. But you know way more about directing traffic than they do. Acknowledge that without their piece, there would be no product release. Acknowledge that their position and experience is very valuable and critical to the product success. Continue to openly appreciate their position in the stream of things (tell them how much you admire what they do). Continuously remind them that the purpose of your position is to be of service to them. (All great leaders take on the attitude of service.)  Continue to ask them what they need from you to help them achieve their goals. Explain to them that you admire what they do (they are the drivers that will get the product released). And that you see yourself as the traffic cop whose job is it to keep the traffic moving smoothly, in the right direction, and avoid traffic jams to get the product out the door on time.
  2. If someone seems particularly envious or jealous, maybe they want to be a product manager. Ask them if they really want to be a product manager? Do they want you to put in a good word for them in your department? Help them get the job that they really want. If they really want to get into the product management arena, start introducing them to the staff and management of the team. Share the type of tasks and experience that they need to do the job. Share what a day in the life of a product manager looks like. Take them to lunch with some of your department staff. Keep that service attitude – and ask them what you can do to help.
  3. Sun Tzu (author of Art of War) would say: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Make these people your friends. Periodically bring in breakfast or snack treats to their staff meetings or labs (where ever they gather in a group), make public announcement of appreciation when they do something that you have been asking the team for; write thank-you email to them and their managers – when they turn in their status reports early, show appreciation when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing (and make sure their managers get a copy of these things to show that you are on these people’s side); and acknowledge acts that make your job run smoother and easier. Keep your manager and their manager aware of the good things that are going on in the group (this shows the individuals that you are on their side to get them a good performance review). Take the most troublesome folks out to lunch and ask them for their advice on some things OR -better yet – say that you want to understand better what they do. People love to talk about what they do and give their opinions on things. Asking about them is another way of showing respect and interest in them. The more time you spend understanding them, the more they will take the time to understand you. The more you understand how they work, the better you can devise processes that naturally blend with the way they already work. Treat them with the respect that senior employees are due. Consider their insight, feedback and advice. Choose the path that feels right for you (which probably will include some of their ideas and your ideas). Don’t do what they say, just because they say it. But use their insight to improve your product process so that it better fits into what they are already doing.  The more things you implement that naturally fit the way things work – the easier your life with be.

You can’t change how people treat you. But you can 100% control how you treat others. Make your “service attitude” more public – to show them that you’re there to help them achieve their goals. Continue to remind them that you know that they are doing the significant, heavy lifting in the product design and implementation. Your role is to help the team achieve their common and shared goal. If you approach this with the service-attitude, you are more likely to reduce much of the negativity.
I go through more of the: who, what, where, when, why and how – in the IT Professional Development Toolkit product.

 

p.s. Keep all your “thank-you” notes and notes of appreciation in your Achievement Folder….so that if something comes up in your performance review, you can show tangible evidence that your intend was not to agitate. Document everything as you go along — so that at the end of the year (performance review time) – you don’t have to remember what you did all year.
Try it and let me know what you think.

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