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Jealousy within staff

Generally speaking, in any group setting problems out of jealousy can arise. In terms of youth work, jealousy within staff can lead to problematic consequences, affecting the entire group. It is, therefore, important to recognize where jealousy comes from and how to best deal with it in regard to the youth group.

Jealousy among staff
Jealousy among staff
©: Robert Kneschke - Fotolia

This is certainly an issue among employees, and everyone should be honest with themselves and answer the questions at the end of this article. Jealousy poisons the climate within the workplace and the kids are no longer the focus.

What is jealousy?

We know it probably all: Jealousy is a painful feeling. It arises when a person feels that the affection of his partner or any other by him honoured person is taken away and/or shifted to a third person. We fear the loss of our partner or loved one; therefore jealousy is often accompanied by strong feelings of fear of loss.

What are the possible causes for jealousy?

According to experts, there is no human being who does not experience jealousy. The characteristics differ only in the expression of this jealousy. A degree of jealousy is also considered to be "healthy". After all, your partner will be flattered when he realizes that you are jealous. However, if jealousy goes beyond of what is healthy then jealousy quickly becomes a nuisance. Extreme jealousy might even be considered to be pathologic.

Cause: Low self-esteem and -appreciation

The causes for jealousy are often a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. This applies both to love relationships as well as relationships with friends or colleagues at work. For example, if a colleague shows appreciation to somebody else, we feel left out; we do not get the desired recognition – a breeding ground for jealousy. It all burns down to one thing: the assumptions that others are better or more popular than you are.

Afraid to fall short

The fear of falling short, getting less than others, representing less, being loved less than another person, those are fears, which probably every person knows, has experienced for himself and can be traced back to his upbringing. The classic example is a new baby. The entire family situation changes for the child. It no longer holds the center of his parent’s attention. Now it has to share with the younger brother or sister. Deep within him the seed takes root “not longer being loved.”

What are the consequences of jealousy?

Self-consumption: after all the saying “sick with jealousy" has its reason. If you make yourself sick with jealousy, over time you will lose your strength to do something meaningful with your life. Your world gets stuck in revolving around yourself.

Bold actions: To finally be on top, to be someone, to be (finally) seen, in some people this attitude leads to brinkmanship. This all, just for once being in the centre of attention. What is easily overlooked in this mindset is that those darings could easily go bad. For oneself as well as for everybody involved.

The race that never ends: who's the best? If you want to be better than everybody else you will find, you are caught in a never-ending race. Better grades, more power, more recognition, the list is endless. Time to take a deep breath and to relax become a far memory. Day in, day out you live in fear, that somebody might pass you. What you lose is your quality of life, your peace, your serenity. Burnout and depression will follow eventually.

Putting down everybody else: If I can’t do it any better, then I am going to bring everybody else down (with me). To do so I am using tactics of bullying and putting down. Jealousy and envy are taking over to a point where I am trying run you in the ground, shut you off completely. I have reached my goal only when you give up when you are no longer a threat. Only now I have free rein.

Passive aggressiveness: the fear of falling short, somebody else will get more ….. These are the people always looking over their shoulders, always on guard. They are forcing to be seen, bringing the attention always back to themselves, trying to be indispensable, and so on. This person struggles for recognition and does not pass up any opportunity to point out his superiority and importance.

The pursuit of power: there is the belief only the one on top has all the power, has the say, decides, judges and has the attention of everybody else. Jealousy has eliminated a many staff members. Purely because they had more success with the kids and were more accepted. Some people are in a need to hold powerful positions to strengthen their own ego, particularly when they are doing not so good in other parts of their lives. It is obvious that this attitude destroys every attempt of team- and youth work. The focus is on securing the own position, at the centre as well as in life, and the actual work with the young people becomes secondary.

What can be done about jealousy?

  • Get to know your own feelings and raise your self-confidence.

    Generally speaking, whenever jealousy arises, it is important to recognise it and own the way you feel. Regarding this situation, why do I feel that way? Does the other one really get more than I do or are my feelings playing a trick on me? If you feel you can’t afford that much self-reflection, it might be helpful to counteract jealousy with the appropriate means to strengthen your self-confidence and -esteem.

Jealousy among staff within the child- and youth work

Excessive jealousy, as described above, takes the focus away from the child-, youth- and recreational work and brings the wellbeing of your emotions and ego to the foreground. Having said that, youth work needs self-confident staff to build a well-working team. Bickering, jealousy and intrigue for selfish reasons don’t lead anywhere. At the end, it just reveals how tarnished your self-esteem is.

  • Staff only engages with each other

    Evidently, the children and youth in your care should have your undivided attention. However, if there is tension between caregiver and guardians resulting from jealousy they often don’t have time any longer to do their assigned tasks. This means that the concerns, worries and needs of the children and young people in the group all of a sudden become secondary, because all that game playing and infighting totally got out of hand. Needless to say, that interferes with the overall success of the youth work.

  • Often kids add their own spin on things and pity the adults against each other

    Children and young people are very sensitive when it comes to sense tension between staff. Following their own agenda, they might use staff’s jealousy struggles to play the adults off against each other. Usually, they are trying to gain advantage over less popular workers.

  • Someone who always wants to have all the attention overlooks everybody else; the kids, the co-worker, the fellow human being.

    • Ongoing passive aggressiveness, mistrust, resentment, comparing (who’s more favoured by the kids, who achieves the better results, etc), unshakable fear to be left behind (others are more liked, are more appreciated) are those things where the youth worker is hung up and rotates only around himself. All his energy goes into looking good, above all, not being seen a loser. The paradox though is, if you can’t trust yourself and your abilities, how can you possibly help and encourage young people to strengthen their self-esteem.

    • Someone who always wants to be on top, wants to be the smartest, most popular youth leader will equally leave no stone unturned to restrict other staff, shut them off to gain free rein. Holding grudges, resentment and fear will tempt you to disadvantage your co-worker at any given situation. It cannot be stressed enough; this behaviour always revolves around one person – the youth leader. And that to the expense of the young people. It is not unheard of that staff, showing this behaviour, might abuse and manipulate the young people. What becomes obvious is that even the youth realize there is no teamwork. At its best, this is a quarrelling bunch.

    • On a last thought, youth workers are supposed to be a role model, meaning, at all time to exhibit certain behaviours to serve the young person as guidance. However, if he models that the single one priority is, to get to the top, no matter the costs, the young person is bound to add this “strategy” to his repertory of “life skills.”

Finally, a few questions on self-reflection. If needed, those questions can be discussed at team meetings. However, most likely it will be difficult for most people to admit (even to themselves) that jealousy is an issue. Not all of the below-listed questions address jealousy, but most definitely they are addressing your self-esteem; “how do I see myself”, “what do I need to do, to feel ok?” In a way, it is almost human nature, to compare yourself with others and to wish to be accepted. For jealousy to sneak in is highly likely. How dependent or independent am I in the opinion of others and how do I score. What do I have to lose and how scared am I to lose it?

  • Jealousy; have I ever experienced it: Yes / No or?
  • Jealous of whom?
  • When does jealousy occur?
  • What has to happen for jealousy to show up?
  • I do not begrudge others for their success, do I begrudge others if they are more popular with the young people, or does that eat me up?
  • Assessment of my self-esteem?
    • Are others more successful
    • Are more popular with the kids?
    • Are they more skilful, technically better, do they have more talent than I do?
  • Do I try to do it all alone or am I able to delegate and let go?
  • Will I always have to be on top? Be the greatest? Be more important?
  • Do I feel left out all the time? Unappreciated?
  • Why am I really doing youth work?
  • Do I need the young people to flatter my ego?
  • Do I need the young people more than they need me?
  • What happens if I gave up youth work? What would I miss and why? Personally, what do I make depending on youth work?

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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