Dealing With Workplace Envy

May 9, 2018







noun: envy; plural noun: envies

  1. 1.

a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.



Envy is one of those emotions that we’re not comfortable admitting to.  We'll rant about how rough our own nights are or how awful customers can be, but how many times have you heard someone express that their night is going poorly relative to the night of another dancer? 


Instead, you're more likely to hear passive aggressive phrases like "looks like your night is going well!" or "I wonder what she does to get them in rooms...she's probably selling drugs/pu**y."  


In other words, you're going to hear thinly covered complaints that, at their core, just mean "I wish I was X like she is, but I don't know how. So instead I'm going to look for a cheap shot to bring down my coworker, and focus on her success instead of my own."


We don’t want to have a conversation about workplace jealousy because it's thorny.  It doesn’t make anyone feel good to acknowledge the sense of lack that can come from watching someone else succeed.  So even though we all experience some degree of jealousy, this phenomenon doesn't get talked about at work.  But this doesn’t change the fact that envy is real, and that its effects rob us of potential friendships and can deplete our interactions with customers.  It also doesn't change the fact that when we center on others, we lose ground on our own progress and goals.  


Why We Covet


The reasons why we are susceptible to jealousy are pretty obvious: we are in an industry that directly and indirectly pits us against each other.


Customers describe us in comparison to co-workers. Even their compliments (“you’re the prettiest girl in this club,” “you’re not like these other girls") imply comparison to other dancers they found less attractive.  Our bodies, faces, outfits and personalities are constantly being evaluated in real time. And it’s not just the customers that are doing it.  When we get ready before a shift, there’s a real sense that we have to keep up with whoever is working next to us.  As soon as another dancer goes into a private room, others will notice.  If she gets more dances, more sales, or more quality customers, she’s likely to become a topic of discussion.  


Is this all coming from envy?  Of course not.  A lot of sharing and collaboration happens in clubs, and a lot of the time being aware of what others are doing can just be a marker for how busy a night is or for how we can improve our own game.  But without proper mental and emotional preparation, this kind of “keeping up” mentality can lead to some pretty uncomfortable feelings that will throw you off your base.


By the way, this feeling is not limited to dancers or to our industry.  In any workplace setting, watching others who have the same baseline opportunities you do succeed more than you causes some uncomfortable feelings.   When the Harvard Business Review went over the appearance of envy (or “the distress people feel when others get what they want”) in the workplace they found it to be a universal phenomenon across hundreds of organizations[1].


What does this mean for you? 


It means you’re not alone in getting that uncomfortable feeling when you see someone else at your club win when you’re failing. 


But it also means that you need a strategy to manage this feeling, before it eats you up and gets you to sabotage yourself. 


To quote from the same article:


“Envy damages relationships, disrupts teams, and undermines organizational performance. Most of all, it harms the one who feels it. When you’re obsessed with someone else’s success, your self-respect suffers, and you may neglect or even sabotage your own performance and possibly your career.”


If you’re worried about someone else’s success, you will miss out on opportunities to grow with them, collaborate with them, and ultimately on opportunities to succeed as an individual. 



How Can We Deal With Envy?  A Mindful Approach



Like any other habit change, moving forward from jealousy isn’t going to be done overnight.  Your positions or feelings related to envy have often settled in through years of mental and emotional training, and will not go away just because you decide to move along. 


However, there are strategies we can use to begin changing those patterns that ultimately end with self-destructive behavior.   All of these are centered on taking a mindful approach.  That means when you feel jealous, you take a moment to stop yourself, breathe, and evaluate why you're feeling this way and how you can edit your thoughts and behaviors.  Here are some big picture strategies to encourage this kind of mindfulness. 


Step Into It


Instead of ignoring or suppressing your jealousy, next time you encounter a dancer, staff member or customer that arouses feelings of envy in you, acknowledge this emotion in yourself.  If you can at the moment, stop, and try to think about why their experience is affecting yours.  Usually you will be able to identify what you’re coveting after.  Is it attention that you’re not receiving? Is it income? Is it power?


Note: just because something triggers jealousy in you doesn’t mean that it’ll be the right time to deal with it.  If it happens in the middle of a client interaction or an interaction with another entertainer, it may not be the right time to unpack your feelings.  If it’s not, then make a note of this moment so you can unpack it later when you’re in a less stressful environment.  If you can work through it on paper, even better. 


When you step into your feelings, you do two things.  First, by acknowledging the feeling as real and present, you stop it from controlling your behavior irrationally.  By bringing it to the forefront, you ask your brain to identify why this feeling is important in the first place, and where it’s coming from.  And as soon as you get your conscious mind working on the problem, it can take over from your purely emotional mind and make it easier to respond in real time. 


Second, it can help you identify areas of yourself that you can improve on, and get you to come up with creative strategies to focus on your own gains instead of those of your co-workers.  This happens when you…


Deal With Your Own Shit


Everyones' issues are different.  Did you grow up with serious body-image issues that now affect how you compare yourself to your co-workers? You need to deal with that. 


Do you get annoyed at customers that have more money than you, and feel like you can’t collaborate with them easily because they shouldn’t be entitled to that money?  Deal with that. 


Does the fact that another dancer make more than you or get more rooms than you upset you?  Deal with that! 


Ultimately without addressing the root of these fixations you will have a really hard time moving on.  Focus on yourself first doesn’t just mean focus on your own money when you’re at work.  It also means focusing on your own psychological needs inside and outside of the club.  If you need to research, read, educate yourself, or find counseling, then the onus is on you.  No one else will help you get yourself in line, so it’s up to you to prioritize your own needs. Unless you can figure out why someone else's success is triggering you to make life more difficult for yourself, then don't expect yourself to change.  


While these big picture strategies are at the core of changing the root cause of jealousy, there isn't always the time or energy to cope with the trends in our lives that created jealousy in the first place.  Sometimes minor changes can start to change how we engage jealousy in practice. 


For those times when you need a short term, quick fix strategy, here are a few things to try the next time you feel jealousy:


1. Give with no expectation of returns.  Whether it's a smile, a hug, a tip to another dancer, or a kind word, engaging others with positivity and kindness will often reap kindness in return.  Whether it comes from a custoemr or from a dancer, sometimes just feeling that we're also cared about and appreciated can shift the mindset from jealousy into appreciation.  


2. Collaborate, don't Isolate.  This means work with others as often as possible.  When we feel jealous, we tend to isolate ourselves from the situation that created the feeling.  This means we may back away from dancers or staff members that made us feel jealous, because they fill us with a feeling that the playing field isn't fair.  When you work with others, you will bond with them and you will learn from them.  Often, we take the ability of a dancer to sell as a natural part of who she is.  If instead you take the opportunities to learn from that entertainer about how she became so capable, you're likely to learn a lot more about how to grow your own business, which will in turn keep you busy and out of your thoughts.  This industry isn't a fair playing field, but that is why we need allies and friendships more than we need to put up walls from others around us.  


3. Remember to have a growth mindset instead of a scarcity mindset: Many dancers believe that there is a scarcity of customers, money and opportunity.   No wonder we treat it like a playoff game instead of a team project. When you train yourself to believe that there is enough money in the room for everyone, you will stop seeing your co-workers as your competition.  No one is taking away from your income.  Every sale your co-workers make improves the visibility of your club, which in turn ensures that in the lon gterm more customers will come through the door.  The better experience club customers have, the more club customers you will have to earn income from.    


On top of that, when you learn to work with other dancers you will improve your income sources greatly.  We are triggered by reciprocity, which means that when you do something nice for another person they will most often feel a need to do something nice in return.  In dancer language, this means that the more you go out of your way to share, collaborate, and improve the income of others, the more likely they are to do it for you.  This works as a great recipe against envy because you begin to look for opportunities to tag-team, work with groups, and build as a team instead of tearing each other down as adversaries.  


4.  Appreciate yourself. When we begin to see others as more X Y or Z than ourselves, it often comes out of a sense of lack in our own abilities and talents.  We are our own harshest critics.  This is why it is essential to go out of your way to communicate with yourself and build a sense of appreciation and trust with our own minds and bodies.  The more you remind yourself of your positive qualities, the easier it will be to move on with your day when someone else shows one of these qualities as well.  


Most likely, no one of these strategies alone will be enough to overcome the sense of envy that can creep in at work.  However, with a combination of these tools and some consistent practice, you may find yourself focusing more on yourself and your own needs and wants, and less on the success of your teammates.  



Hustle On! 









[1] https://hbr.org/2010/04/envy-at-work


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