Jealousy on the job

by L

I saw this on Corporette and thought it would be interesting to see Totebaggers’ take on it!

Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague


58 thoughts on “Jealousy on the job

  1. I’m kind of surprised to read that the women involved were engineers. I think the jealousy dynamic exists among some women of all professions, but I somehow thought it was much less among engineers. We must hang together or we’ll all hang separately. Perhaps because women have more socially sanctioned choices than men do (career is OK, SAHP is OK, working part-time is OK, etc.) we tend to be insecure in whatever choices we make. Maybe that’s why envy is one of the seven deadly sins- I was thinking about gluttony yesterday. :)

    I suspect the most annoying thing for the childless women in Society of Women Engineers is how the rest of us tend to chat about our kids, activities and childcare. Even pre kids, the chat didn’t bother me, because I hoped my turn would come. As we age, eldercare gets thrown into the mix. A childless colleague tactfully chose to consider kid chatter an opportunity to think about how to balance work with caring for her elderly mother.

  2. On the topic of mentoring groups, I went to the most amazing workshop a few weeks ago. It was sponsored by a national professional association for women doing research in CS. We were divided into three groups based on where we were career wise – I was with the mid level academic group. We had a bunch of really high powered senior women who gave talks, and ran individualized mentoring sessions. My group in turn did mentoring sessions with the junior academic women, which I really enjoyed. I met some great people and got lots of ideas.

    One of the few not-so-successful sessions was the lunch, which was done by topic. The topics were displayed on each table and you picked what you wanted. I am sure some of the tables were great. But i picked the time management table. It was quite crowded, but the problem was that all the women at that table had kids and were desperately trying to figure out how to keep research and teaching going with a family. The facilitator was the only woman there without kids (or a partner) and she just kept repeating that you have to choose your work and allocate your time. She really wasn’t getting it.

    But otherwise, it was great, and I did not see any of the jealousy mentioned in this article.

  3. I think I’ve told the story on here before, but I’ve dealt with sabotage by another woman at work once, someone about 5-10 years older than me. She was my assigned mentor at a key internship and I could tell from day 1 she was out to undermine me. I don’t know that there was jealousy involved, as IMO she was more attractive than me and already quite accomplished at the firm. I think it was more that she felt like there was only room for a tiny number of women to succeed in the field and she wanted to improve her odds by preventing anyone else from getting a foothold. She singlehandedly managed to destroy a summer of hard work by telling lies about me, gas lighting me, and trying to make me crazy by saying things like “I know people are saying they love your projects, but I talked to your manager and he really thinks it’s horrible.” Unfortunately I didn’t have the office politics skills to handle the situation (honestly I’m not sure there was anything that could have been done)- I ended the internship with outstanding feedback from everyone but her, and I was told that her feedback was the reason I wasn’t invited to stay on full time.

    I don’t think most women would ever do something like this, but I think it’s a common enough dynamic to really harm women. When a field is 95% male, the few women in power can make things impossible for women further down the ladder if they choose.

  4. I’ve never been sabotaged by another woman, probably because I have worked with so few women that it has never come up. In particular, I have never reported to a woman except this past year when we had a female temporary chair (pulled in from the administrative ranks due to an emergency), and we had a great working relationship.

    I have been sabotaged and disrespected by men, in particular at the last company I was at.

  5. Rio, I had a similar situation with one woman at my last co-op term. I’m not sure if her feedback (and she was the only one with negative feedback) is what kept me from getting the offer. She was also the only woman I worked with. Sometimes life stinks.

  6. What have I seen?

    1. On third round of IVF vs. just had her 3rd kid
    2. Lady with giant dimond going part time as her salary was inconsequential to her family vs. breadwinner
    3. fat vs. skinny
    4. highly paid contractors vs. low paid FTEs
    5. slobs vs. the well dressed

    An infinite number of things you have no control over can get you on someone’s shit list.

  7. i have had a number of female bosses/team leaders. Three were wonderful – good bosses, one was a good mentor, one was a good sponsor, and one was both a good mentor and sponsor. Two were problems. The first one was put in charge during a management change and came from another department where I had also previously worked. In the prievious department we were peers, so I wasn’t concerned that now she would be my boss. Unfortunately. it turned out she was in way over her head. Her response was to bully everyone, but the biggest problem was that she violated confidentiality about my medical condition (pregnancy) by telling everyone in the department and then, when I interviewed for a job in a different department told the hiring manager flat out that a pregnant woman couldn’t do that job. Even worse, she then came directly to me and told me she did that. I did end up getting the job.

    The second one was difficult because she was systematically undermining an employee until they quit or were fired, then moved on to the next one. She “turned” on me because I had done something my team lead directed me to do. I spoke up with the team lead about the problem with what I was directed to do, but was told to do it the way I was told. She didn’t think it should be done that way and therefore I was incompetent. Now, if I had done it the other way, I would have been insubordinate. Got out as soon as I could.

  8. I have good working relationships with women senior to me. In some instances I found senior women I reported to, to be close friends outside of work with my some of my peers so I felt that lack of personal connection at times. I have reported to a woman, who sabotaged careers of people not reporting to her. I was often asked how I could bear working for her. Actually, I was quite safe because she couldn’t have me walk out and leave her with the work.

  9. At my long-term engineering firm, I WAS the senior woman. I don’t think I sabotaged anyone – I tried to be a good mentor. I felt like I was sabotaged at my last job by being given the worst assignments because I was “the new girl,” but I was in a team of 4 women (one was the team lead) and 1 man (the most junior person, just graduated from college). The office I’m in now is so small that it would be really hard to sabotage anyone. The boss is a bit of a micro-manager, so he knows everything that is going on, and he doesn’t like to play politics within the office since there’s enough of that at the university level.

  10. This being the summer there are lots of interns around. I ran into a bunch of them picking up lunch. The first thing I noticed was all of them were dressed in what could only be called black cocktail dresses. They were all dressed in the same type of black dress and looked alike. Quite different from the rest of us aging tarts.

  11. “Quite different from the rest of us aging tarts.” lol!

    IME there is will usually be a junior person who is smarter, prettier, more personable, harder working, better connected, etc. that can stir up the green-eyed monster in me if I let it. I’ve tried to be objective about it, and only “sabotage” if I feel I’m being attacked or treated unfairly. Sometimes the person with the advantage served to motivate me to up my game, or more often made me realize I didn’t necessarily want what they’re aiming for.

  12. “close friends outside of work with my some of my peers”

    That’s a tough one, whether it be peers or other colleagues. I don’t think there’s really anything you can do about this. Of course, most of these are same-sex friendships, so you often have gender issues. And then you have the office romances, which can also be a challenge.

  13. Do you think Meg Ryan is happy with whatever some surgeon did to her face? Maybe sitting next to a beautiful young model is not such a good idea for her. :) Actually IMO Ryan looks pretty good, just different. She’s 53.

  14. On the topic of the interns in the cocktail dresses – were these the really short kind? I always attend a banquet for our seniors in the honor society. Awards are given out there, and faculty and families are in attendance. I have always noticed that the young women wear what looks to me like “big date night” outfits, while the male students are in business suits. By date night attire, I mean cocktail dresses that are so short that their underwear must be close to visible, and uber high stilletos. I dunno, for an awards night attended by the deans and grandparents, I would have chosen something a little less revealing. I also think that if one wants to wear stilletos while receiving an award, one should practice walking gracefully in them rather than stumbling like a young giraffe.

  15. I think the person in the article has serious issues. Especially since she seems to dislike this person on age/looks alone – she says she doesn’t “overtly flirt” but she doesn’t discourage older men. What does she want this poor girl to do?? Standing in a group, it’s likely that the “flirting” that she is witnessing at networking events is rather innocent, and the younger colleague is probably handling it just fine. In fact, if it weren’t for the engineering reference, I would think it was a particular person that I work with who is known to have major issues working with the rest of the team and massive insecurity problems.

    I agree with COC that there will always be someone who it is easy to be jealous of and that is a natural reaction. Competent adults find a way to either ignore/get over it or to use it to their own advantage (as a motivator or to learn).

    I work with (and have worked with) a lot of women being in a field that is fairly female-friendly. For the most part, I have had positive experiences with older, more experienced female colleagues, and I’ve really enjoyed now having the opportunity to mentor and work with younger ones – especially the ones who are smarter than me!

    Also agree with Rhett that people with issues will be jealous/petty about something else if not this.

  16. It looks like CoC’s is a candid photo that lets you see where the concealer is and so on, and SWVA’s was shot in more flattering light and doesn’t show as much of her other than her face.

    I had an undermining situation for one day in a temp job during a college summer. That temp job was supposed to run for a week but the underminer (my supervisor) told the agency not to send me back, after giving off competitive vibes the whole day I was there. The agency sent me somewhere else and everywhere else I went they liked me, so it was about as harmless an experience of that as you could have.

  17. I find it hard to believe she’s 30 lbs. thinner now. She’s probably maintained a low weight, and the aging process took over. I can relate, and there’s a reason I wear a scarf around my neck all the time! It’s a good thing I’m always cold anyway.

  18. Coincidentally, Nora Ephron’s book title was I Feel Bad About My Neck. One of my favorite quotes of hers: “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”

  19. My experience with underminers is that they lack confidence in themselves/their abillities. Undermining is a way for them to look better to _____(a higher level boss, clients, etc). I think in the big picture it comes back to haunt them and/or they are just miserable a lot from always being worried that someone will find out about their weaknesses or a higher up will catch on and refuse to tolerate the behavior.

  20. CofC,

    Look at her shoulders – their’s a whiff of anorexia about them.

    Speaking of that – does anyone else watch Botched?

  21. I just ran across a bikini photo from my college years and my first thought was damn, I miss that figure.

  22. Okay, possible anorexia after seeing other photos of her. Is Botched the show with those two plastic surgeons who correct bad operations? I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard of it.

  23. CoC, is that Ryan on the right? The photo makes it look like she’s trying to look like Christina Applegate.

  24. Is Botched the show with those two plastic surgeons who correct bad operations?

    Yes. It’s really quit good.

  25. The senior women I’ve come across are neatly dressed but there is very light make up – similar to Sheryl Sandberg. They look good very natural, opposite of the Meg Ryan picture.

  26. I hate that bikini quote, sorry. One of my older female relatives constantly quotes it. I tried a bikini a few times when I was 16 and 17. I didn’t look good in it then, so I switched to a classic black maillot and never looked back. Honestly, very few women of any age look good in a bikini. You have to have that improbable combination of weighing 105 pounds while also sporting major curves.

  27. Rhett, that is pretty much how I was taught about the CIvil War, in schools in the South. Nothing much has changed.

  28. The Meg Ryan picture with the lace dress is horrible. She looks much better in the E! photo.

    I’ve experienced lots of different stuff with women in the office. I have some really good friends that I met at work, but I’ve only worked for one of these women. The rest were colleagues in different departments or peers.

    I might have been the annoying, young, female manager because I managed people for 15 years and I really didn’t know how hard it is to juggle until I became a parent. I thought I was flexible, but I know now from life experience with elder care and children what a challenge it can sometimes be to handle everything. Also, the experiences of other totebaggers really opened up my eyes to why people might behave a certain way in the office.

  29. Rhett –

    I learned that version of Civil War history in Maryland (a half southern state) as well. I had two textbooks – one sort of generic and the other The American Pageant before it was revised and updated and turned into an AP textbook. I may have told this story before, but when I checked a book out of the library early in my college days and opened the flyleaf to find it was purchased from a fund established by Charles Sumner (whose statue is found in the nearby square), I literally dropped it like it was on fire. My version of American history painted him as a wild-eyed zealot determined to crush the defeated noble South under the industrial vulgarity of the victorious North. My Ohio-educated boyfriend (my ex, actually) explained there was another version taught north of the mason dixon line.

  30. So, I have never really had a boss per se, as the level of hands on management in my position is pretty minimal. Usually there is a medical director above me, but that relationship is best when it is nearly absent (in my first four years, I probably had 4 substantial conversation with the medical director).

    This article had me reflecting on my time as a student and resident. Everyone loves to tell you to, “trust the nurses, they will save you” about as often as new parents are told to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. While there must be a kernal of truth in these statements, they make my skin crawl when I hear someone say them. A decent portion of nurses at academic institutions HATE medical students, and are particularly hard on the women. I was brought to tears as a student in the OR, more than once, for contaminating myself (i.e. touching the table or my face with a sterile glove) by a scrub nurse. You can’t argue with that – if she says she saw you do it, then you did. The other female residents and I use to complain endlessly about the expectations the nurses had of us – get the patient’s blankets, hold their hands, walk them to the bathroom. Asking for support staff to do these things would get you labeled as a bxch right away. However, the male students were never expected to do these things and were treated more like mini-doctors. (

    I think females are afraid of being seen as motherly and therefore unserious, unprofessional, incompetent. Being kind to low status individuals it the prerogative of the high status person. In my current position, I can be indulgent to a visiting high school student, or even the child of a nurse who is visiting my workspace. I can joke with the nurses and even go out for a drink once an awhile. However, as a medical student, if I had a chat with a random 7 (or 17 year old), that would be seen as not taking my responsibilities seriously.

  31. Regarding Civil War history regional teachings…the Civil War happened between the North and the South, during the Gold Rush, and somehow led to the transcontinental railroad…not a big deal AT ALL. Aside from Lee and Grant, I don’t know if any of the generals on either side were mentioned.

  32. The talk about bikinis took me back to my childhood where swimming was rare and swimming for girls rarer still.
    There were only few stores that carried bathing suits. Usually only one color and one style was available. As I grew older it became more difficult to get one. It took a few years for things to change, no bikinis made their appearance though.

  33. Thinking of HM and Finn today as my arctic cafeteria is serving Spam Musubi for lunch.

  34. We had one-piece speedos for swim team, and bikinis for everything else.

  35. Ada, how intriguing! Hawaii and Alaska have kind of a special relationship but I wouldn’t have guessed it would lead to spam musubi in the cafeteria.

  36. I, too, never looked good in a bikini. However, I love board shorts and they, along with a bikini or tankini top, have become my go-to swim outfit.

  37. “At this point she was 30 pounds heavier than 12:56 photo?”
    No. She was 30 years younger.
    Poor Meg Ryan. She’s done everything our society tells women they should do. She stayed skinny. She had some plastic surgery. I’m sure she works out obsessively. My bet is she weighs exactly what she weighed 25 years ago. And folks like Rhett still cluck that if she just gained 30 lbs, she’d look like she did in 1988.
    And no one mentions that Billy Crystal now looks like the proprietor of a bar the Dudes of the Totebag might visit on a boys night out with PTM.
    Not that shaming mid-50’s women for their looks strikes a chord with me or anything!

  38. About Civil War History – in middle school in Texas we were learning about the CIvil War when our teacher went on maternity leave and the substitute came in. Our regular teacher was from the South and would regularly say — We LOST the war. The sub, from NY, said — We WON the war. Immediately, all the kids were raising their hand, saying, NO , we LOST. To me the fact that teachers in the 1970s were still saying “We” won or lost vs the Union/Confederacy won or lost continues to keep the conflict personal.

    In high school, my teacher put this spin on the war, which I admit has had the most lasting effect on how I think about wars in general. She said, people/societies fight wars because two groups feel/believe strongly enough about something to put their life on the line. At that moment in time, each group believes their position seems to be the correct one. Looking back from the present, we may have very different views about the issue that was fought over and who was “right”. (Civil War, Indian Wars, etc.) The heroes recorded in history are usually on the winning side. However, that should not diminish the strength of character of those who fought for their beliefs.

  39. Regarding textbooks – With Texas trying to steer away from Common Core and many other states adopting it, does that diminish some of the power of Texas to determine textbook content for the US?

  40. @ Hour from Nowhere – I feel the wrong message is being taken in by a certain group of women. Working out obsessively, not eating enough will make you look older as you age, not to mention the risk of injury from very intensive workouts combined with lack of food. There has to be more of a balance.

  41. And folks like Rhett still cluck that if she just gained 30 lbs, she’d look like she did in 1988.

    Not at all. She just has the harsh look of someone who has forced their body fat percentage far lower than their body would prefer.

  42. I don’t understand why her forehead is so much bigger than it used to be.

  43. RMS – it’s becasue her hairline has receeded and her bangs are longer and parted to the sides

  44. “Not that shaming mid-50’s women for their looks strikes a chord with me or anything!”

    I posted the picture at 12:56 because it suggested to me the situation in the OP where an older employee might find herself jealous of a younger attractive colleague. We get old and lose our looks. It happens, and the consequences at work or otherwise can be hard to accept. It’s not surprising that jealousy happens.

  45. Well, on the topic of 50 plus women, Amy Schumer’s skit L.F.D. available on youtube (if it doesn’t come up that way try Schumer/Julia Louis-Dreyfus) – absolutely not suitable for work or children, and some of our posters might be offended at the language or lack cultural reference for the 4 actress-comedians in the sketch) is recommended for private viewing by all. But of course, I found Joan Rivers wet your “eyes” funny. Note to male Totebaggers – men may not find it quite as funny, but it does explain Meg Ryan.

  46. Ada, did you try the Spam musubi? If so, how did you like it?

    I’m also curious– did you first hear of it here?

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