Bankers are set to receive bonuses of £4bn, less than a year after the world banking crisis which saw them saved by the taxpayers. Angry? Meanwhile, Barclays Bank is sitting pretty on a half-year profit of £3bn. Envious? Meanwhile, outside the banking sector, Firefox reported its one billionth download this week. Happy?

Try as hard as they might to ignore her, these people really wish they had her money..!

Try as hard as they might to ignore her, these people really wish they had her money..!

Emotions – they are ever present. Even though there is widespread anger at the banking bonuses, the thought of, for instance, £250,000 extra cash for just six months work must be tempting. Similarly, if your business has struggled during these recessionary times, the Barclays profits must provoke a little envy. And Firefox? Well, wouldn’t you like a billion downloads from your web site?

Envy. It’s there inside your head and try as hard as you can to deny it, it surfaces when you least expect it. Yes, you probably should be angry about those banking bonuses, but as you say how cross you are there’s a little thought that flashes across your brain wishing you had such a pay packet. Even though you justify your low download rate with comments like “I’m not in the same market as Firefox”, your subconscious brain interjects with, “Yeah, but a billion downloads, that would be cool”.

But consider the rivalries you have closer to home. What about that competing web site that has more visitors than you? Or that local firm that seems to get more of the media coverage than you? And what about the expert in the same field as you who always seems to get their blog re-tweeted? The envy can start to become jealousy in these situations. And that can be damaging to your online business.

New research on jealousy shows that in romantic rivalries our brains stop working properly. We become unable to pay attention and we become focused on the object of our jealousy, rather than anything else. Whilst this may be obvious in the teenage dance of courtship, it could also become apparent in business. How many times have you focused so much attention on dealing with a business rival, rather than concentrating on your clients?

As soon as you become jealous of another company’s client list or their Google ranking, you are on the slippery slope to lack of focus and poor attention. Indeed, it can even become an obsession – witness the Microsoft jealousy of Google.

So, how can you avoid your envy becoming jealousy? The first step is to look at your own security and self-esteem. Personal insecurities are the breeding ground of jealousy of all kinds. If you ever become envious or jealous, it’s your feelings of insecurity that need attention so you can work out what, deep down, is really bugging you. Solve that – maybe even with a counsellor or therapist – and you’ll stop those jealous feelings overwhelming you.

The main way of avoiding business jealousy though is to know what it is your business is about. What is it you really do? What are the real markers of your success? What do your clients really think of you? All too often at business networking meetings you will hear people say things which are vague and hesitant, suggesting they themselves are not too sure of what they really do. Finding your focus is the most essential component in avoiding envy and jealousy.

Sadly for bankers, their culture is focusing on money for money’s sake, which means their bonus structure simply breeds jealousy at the top. Which is why their attention is taken away from their business and onto getting bigger bonuses to beat their rivals. One day, probably not too far away, big companies will realise that bonuses actually work against success because they breed jealousy, which in turn destroys focus and attention. And when we see the inevitable results of that we will all have a new emotion – Schadenfreude.

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