Overcoming Entrepreneurial Envy

Jealousy creates disconnection, which can only harm the prospects of a growing firm. Here's how to turn around that dynamic.

learn more about Kate Swoboda

By Kate Swoboda • Aug 8, 2014 Originally published Aug 8, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's only natural that when you become an entrepreneur, you're going to want to connect and network with other successful entrepreneurs. It gets tricky, however, whenever some people in these social circles are doing well while others are not.

Entrepreneurial envy damages social ties and potential collaborations, and it's particularly pernicious because it's often unspoken. You might encounter this in one of three different scenarios: others are doing well (but you're not), when you're doing well (but others aren't), and when no one's really doing well (except for one lone star).

Here's how deal with each situation so that you can maintain your relationships with other entrepreneurs:

Related: Don't Underestimate the Casual Meeting

1. Others are doing well and you're not.

People often distance themselves when they feel jealous about others' success. But this is precisely the move that can make the problem worse.

Turning around this kind of envy means staying connected and asking questions of those who are successful. By doing so, it's possible to glean what it is that your own business might be missing. The days of cutthroat competition and closely guarded secrets is an old, out-of-favor 1980s approach in today's social age of Kickstarter and collaboration. There's no longer a scarcity mentality that we're all fighting for one slice of the financial pie. If you push past your jealousy to stay connected with those who experience success, they'll often be happy to share what's working well for their businesses, when asked.

Related: Maximizing Your Time While Helping Others

2. You're doing well and others aren't.

This is the flip side of the earlier problem: Now others might be tempted to distance themselves from you because they feel envious of your success. What's more, you might find yourself downplaying your achievements or abilities in the hopes of saving someone else from feeling bad about experiencing their own rough patch.

To maintain connection and goodwill under these circumstances, step into a space of generosity and collaboration. One idea to bring everyone together? Suggest a get-together with the theme of "collaborating on how to face challenges within our industry" and invite a mix of people who are and aren't faring well.

Treating the conversation as an industry conversation avoids directly pinpointing those who are struggling but potentially might offer them help. Furthermore, they might reveal something about how they're struggling that helps you, too. For instance, you might learn from their mistakes and better bolster your business to avoid experiencing the same.

3. No one's doing well, save one lone star.

The dangerous energy at work in this situation is the tendency for several people to gang up on one person, for no other reason than the resentment that while everyone else is having a hard time, one person's star is shining.

This is the zone where gossip is shared freely, comments that so-and-so's work "isn't really all that great, anyway" and accusations of unfair advantages are leveled. To put down the one person who's doing well is divisive, reflects poorly on the person who's gossiping and it's hurtful to the one person who just happens to be doing well.

The first step in these situations is to recognize them as they're happening and then choose not to participate. When you hear someone else starting off sentences with, "Well, I heard..." let that be a red-flag warning.

Respond to those comments with statements that turn the conversation in a more positive direction, such as "I'm trying to pay attention to the times when I hear these things and then feel worse about the situation. I'm mostly curious about what she's doing that's working so well because I'd love to replicate that for my own business."

The next step is to reframe your envy as an opportunity to stay open to possibility. Instead of seeing someone else as having an unfair advantage, reframe his or her advantage to be exactly the kind of lucky break that you'd love to have. And remember that when many people are struggling, there's a tendency to believe that things are impossible. But this lone success story is a contradiction to that and proof that it can be done.

While it can be hard to admit, envy may point you toward those places where you desire to claim something for yourself. Instead of letting it feed and grow larger, turn around those feelings. At the end of the day, it's the people whom you interact with who will add much of the richness and meaning to your business life. So rather than moving away from other, stretch yourself past the envy and into bolstering alliances.

Related: Small-Business Owners Are Getting More Optimistic. Are You? (Infographic)

Kate Swoboda

Author, Creator of YourCourageousLife.com

Kate Swoboda is the author of the Courageous Living Program, founder of the Courageous Living Coach Certification Program and creator of YourCourageousLife.com, where she defines courage as feeling afraid, diving in anyway and transforming. Swoboda was deemed by Greatist as one of the top 50 bloggers making a difference in fitness, health and happiness.

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