When jealousy is directed at you: Let your job, dental patient care, continue to shine

In the February 2015 issue of RDH, I wrote about how to handle your own envious feelings toward a coworker. While I received many positive responses, there was also quite a bit of feedback from hygienists who were interested in how to handle envy and jealousy that was directed toward them at work.

BY Kara Vavrosky, RDH

In the February 2015 issue of RDH, I wrote about how to handle your own envious feelings toward a coworker. While I received many positive responses, there was also quite a bit of feedback from hygienists who were interested in how to handle envy and jealousy that was directed toward them at work. This is something I have unfortunately experienced in the past, and it's clear that I'm not alone. While it would be great to get along with everybody all the time, no matter how hard you try, there will always be people who exhibit jealous behavior toward you.

Let me make one thing clear before we get started. As hygienists, our number one priority at work is providing quality patient care and doing what we can to improve our patients' overall oral health. Anything beyond should be secondary, including dealing with a jealous coworker. No matter how difficult things get, it's important to not let any workplace issues hinder the quality of patient care. That said, providing quality care and being well loved by your patients can actually cause others to become jealous.

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Other articles by Vavrosky

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In a perfect world, the better we are at our jobs, the more respect we gain from our coworkers. But many times the opposite is true. If you clearly exhibit the skills, professionalism, and knowledge of a top-notch hygienist, it can bring out feelings of insecurity in others. Those feelings of insecurity can turn into jealousy over time, and a person who you have always gotten along with suddenly dislikes you.

Should you stop being the quality hygienist that you are to make the other person feel better? Of course not. As mentioned, your patients are your number one priority.

There are some actionable steps you can take when jealous behavior is being directed at you. There is one thing you should never do when dealing with a jealous coworker, and that's saying, "You're just jealous." This may indeed be the case, but dismissing his or her feelings outright will only inflame the situation. The last thing you want is for a jealous coworker to become even more determined to make your life miserable. Misery loves company, and if you are dismissive he or she will make an extra effort to take you down a notch. Don't allow others to have this power over you.

So what can you do? Start by stepping up your game where you can. A jealous coworker will probably start complaining that you aren't carrying your weight around the office by telling others that you aren't restocking supplies, sharpening instruments, or any other number of tasks. Take the time to do these things so others in the office can see that what is being said about you just isn't true.

If a coworker is telling others that you have an attitude or are stuck up, make an extra effort to smile and take an interest in others. The whole point is to show everybody else in the office that the jealous coworker is off base in what he or she is saying about you.

Next - and this can be difficult - is to look at things from the jealous coworker's point of view. A jealous person is exhibiting that behavior because of issues they have with themselves, but it's important to understand where they are coming from. I am not saying you should change who you are. However, recognizing his or her perspective can help you in future interactions.

Maybe you were really excited when a patient complimented you on how great an appointment they had, and you shared this with the jealous coworker. He or she will probably interpret this as bragging and it would only fuel the jealousy. Even though it is never your intention to brag, you can withhold your excitement when you are around that particular person.

Finally, and most importantly, always remember that you are a good person and a good hygienist. While it's easy to dismiss someone as "just jealous," it can begin to bring you down. You may start questioning yourself and subconsciously thinking that maybe the jealous person has some valid points about you. As hard as it is, don't let the person get to you. Once the coworker gets in your head as being justified in their behavior, he or she wins.

When things get tough, I encourage you to remember why you became a hygienist in the first place. Focus on providing top quality care for your patients. Everything else is secondary - especially getting sucked into the mind games of a coworker. RDH


Kara Vavrosky, RDH, runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists. Kara serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service, and the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry, an initiative to raise awareness of cleanliness in the dental office. Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Oregon.

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