BYKara Vavrosky, RDH
The stress of our day job can produce a wide range of emotions. From anxiety and frustration to satisfaction and accomplishment, it can sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster at work. However, there's one emotion that can be particularly difficult to deal with because it's one that keeps growing inside you and doesn't seem to go away after a particular patient, or even at the end of the day.
I'm talking about envy - specifically envy of a co-worker. Whether you work in a small family practice, a large corporate office, or whenever there are groups of people, it's easy to start comparing yourself to others. When comparing yourself to others, it's easy to become envious of others who seem to have it better than you.
Nobody likes to admit they are envious of a co-worker. Whether that co-worker is the doctor's or office manager's favorite, or patients always ask about where the other hygienist is, it can trigger emotions that we've been taught are not appropriate for us to have. These emotions then stay bottled up inside and resentment starts to build toward that co-worker. After a while, even a passing "Hey, how are you doing today?" can trigger an avalanche of negative emotion that leads to even more resentment.
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The first step to curtailing these feelings of envy is to understand where they come from. Many people will use the terms jealousy and envy interchangeably. While they are closely related, there are some distinct differences.
Jealousy is generally characterized as the feeling we get when we feel something that we had or deserve has been unfairly taken away from us. For example, if you were expecting and looking forward to working an additional day a week to increase your paycheck, but the other hygienist in the office was awarded the other day a week instead of you, feelings of jealousy towards the other hygienist may arise.
Envy, on the other hand, occurs when somebody else has something that you want. For example, if you are the part-time hygienist at your office, but you would prefer to be the full-time hygienist, feelings of envy can occur towards the regular full-time hygienist.
It may not seem like a big deal to be envious of others at work. If you keep it to yourself, what's the worst that could happen? Well, beyond the feelings of resentment building up within you, it can lead to a hostile work environment. To compensate for your envious feelings, you may start to find things "wrong" with your co-worker, which can turn into passive-aggressive behavior. This only adds to any tension in the office that makes work more miserable for yourself and others around you. Ultimately, it can turn into bad patient experiences if things get really bad.
So how can we stop feelings of envy from occurring at work? Once you recognize those feelings exist, it is important to be honest with yourself about having those feelings. Understand they are natural and even though you have been taught to not express those feelings in a negative manner, it is still OK to have them. The sooner you recognize those feelings for what they are, the quicker you can address them before the feelings of envy turn into full blown resentment.
The next step to addressing envy is to stop comparing yourself to the person you are envious of. This is obviously much easier said than done. But the sooner you address this, the quicker your feelings of envy will dissipate away. Focus on what you are grateful for at work and use your positive patient experiences to boost your confidence at work. Once you let go of any perceived competition between you and a co-worker, you will notice your attitude becoming more positive, and, ultimately, your performance will improve, which will create an upward cycle of becoming more positive and enjoying work more.
Finally, remember why you went into hygiene in the first place. It probably wasn't because you wanted to be the favorite employee, have a nicer car than your co-workers, or any other myriad ways where comparisons with others appear at work. Your own success at work and in life is ultimately defined by you. For me personally, I choose to live by my own standards and not let comparisons with others define me. I encourage you to do the same! 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.