Service of Jealousy

July 23rd, 2010

Categories: Jealousy, Recommendation


Jealousy serves to do at least one thing: Eliminate viable candidates to make it easier for decision makers to pick people.

I just heard of a high school senior with a 4.0 grade point average, good SAT scores, the appropriate participation in student government, athletics as well as impressive internships, who didn’t get into a single one of her first choices of college.

After looking into it for her, her guidance counselor broke protocol and shared with her that the teacher she’d asked to recommend her had written “________[Name] used her looks to get where she is.”

According to the person telling me about this–the competition, a fellow student–nothing could be further from the truth. The young woman is stunning. Can she help that she’s 5’8″, has a stupendous figure, incredible skin and hair and a beautiful face? Regardless, she works hard and earns her grades and awards. My conjecture: The teacher was jealous.

airforceAnother instance is job-related. A friend reported to an Air Force lieutenant colonel who, after flying through college in three years earning high honors, shot up through the ranks making each promotion faster than most. The man was smart and respected.

Suddenly, his career screeched to a stop. He almost had to leave the Air Force before retirement age because of a bad report that squelched his next promotion. [If you were passed over for promotion three times, you were forced out of the Air Force.] We all thought:  The superior who gave him the negative review was jealous.

In no way do I resemble either of these people and yet I’ve experienced similar disappointments. In retrospect, I see what happened, although I was flummoxed at the time. I thought you were supposed to do outstanding work.

I don’t think that there is a thing you can do about it but move on.

The young woman did. She’s excelling at her safety college, gets top flight internships and has learned early that life isn’t fair and to keep on trucking. The lieutenant colonel squeaked into the bird colonel slot with cheers from all who knew and worked with him. He never acted bitter nor did he take out his plight on his squadron or family during the career-teetering years.

Do you feel that often the wrong people rise to the top? Do you think that jealousy is one of the reasons, if not directly, then because nobody is threatened by mediocrity and the less outspoken and safe politicians dodge all bullets? Have you observed or experienced a situation where a colleague, boss, client or instructor became a spoiler for someone else out of jealousy?


4 Responses to “Service of Jealousy”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    I just retired from an institution where the sort of thing described here was considered a daily occurrence, even to the extent of falsifying records: in particular, changing performance reports after they had been delivered to the evaluee, and without informing him or her. It was particularly noticeable that this happened to a sizeable group of people hired from the private sector into a quasi-governmental organization, with many in this group being far better trained and qualified than the management involved. A very ugly situation.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Oh, my. What a state of affairs. Horrendous. Worse than I thought.

    And I can’t figure out any way to stop it. I can fantasize about a young, innocent, gosh-gee-whiz kind of person who oozes his/her way to the top, unnoticed, and then fires everyone involved in lowering the morale and quality of the work in the place. What a fine movie that would make!

  3. Jeremiah Said:

    To answer your questions:

    1. The wrong people often rise to the top.
    2. Yes, jealousy can be one of the reasons. Usually it isn’t.
    3. Yes, I’ve observed and experienced the destructive efforts of “spoilers.”

    Why does this happen? Libraries are full of books on the subject and I’m no expert, but I will give an example of “spoiling” of which I was a victim.

    When I was in my forties, I worked for a boss with whom I was compatible and in a culture, which was more collegiate than cut throat. I was doing fine and producing results to prove it. Then my boss changed, and my new one was a business school type that was mathematical genius who ran miles at 5:00 in the morning. Analytical to the core, he didn’t have an intuitive bone in his body. Furthermore he didn’t give a damn about people, just money and winning. We were hopelessly mismatched, and he soon got rid of me. He wasn’t jealous of me, he just didn’t like people who didn’t function the way he did.

    My satisfaction came a few years later, when I learned that the chairman of the institution for which he and I had worked, was saying the he wished that I had never left. Apparently my replacement, an analytical type who had not the foggiest notion of what made his, formerly my, customers tick, had lost a ton of money.

    Unless you are a true chameleon, you do better working with people that you trust and are compatible. Different organizations have different cultures, and if you don’t fit, get out. And if you can’t get out, like the school girl, wait until you can.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    Jealousy is insidious and there are sometimes few indications that it is at work. Let’s take the 4.0 average schoolgirl with the “good” not excellent SAT scores. Things keep changing, and a university now looks at the SATs first, and while the A+ school average is wonderful, it no longer takes first priority, according to parents of todays teens. Further, the teacher story doesn’t make much sense. Most teachers glow with pride at the achievements of their students, and professional ones are not going to risk their careers in attempts to trip up students. There is more to this story that meets the eye. Something is missing. Acadamic performance and extra curricular activities are prime, but there are a number of other facts a school wants to hear about. Ask any alumni interviewer. As one, I had to fill out a long questionnaire. Often we are the only direct human contact a student has with a school.

    That said, there is little doubt that jealousy has been the motivation in the eventual ruin of a number of careers, not to speak of lives. Worse yet, unlike identity theft, there are no built in protections, and people can become jealous of others for the craziest reasons.

    Fortunately, not all jealousy “works” so that many escape damage. A vigilant and/or observant friend or colleague can nip it in the bud. When one hears someone expressing hate for an unknown entity, it is almost a sure sign a brand of jealousy is at work. How the Sam Hill does one “hate” a person one doesn’t know? Well known personalities are often at the business end of such emotions, most frequently from those who can’t come near their achievements.

    Looking at it from a personal view, sure I might be more deserving than “X” or “Y” but that’s life, and it’s stupid to waste increasingy short time caring. Voltaire said something about each of us cultivating ones garden, and there’s no wiser advice on the planet. (Some of you might think it was Bernstein. True, but Voltaire said it first!)

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