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In this article, the sixth in a series of articles on work ethics, Sumaira Dada discusses jealousy at the workplace in the light of Islam
Sarah took a two-year break from her job to attend university. When she came back, she discovered that her juniors had now reached higher posts and she would have to join as a subordinate. She couldn’t help feeling a strong sense of resentment towards her ‘juniors’. The resentment continued to build up.
Having just switched to a new company as Head of Operations, Amir looked forward to higher pay, a newer car and the chances of working with a dynamic team. The newly-appointed Head of Sales was fifteen years his senior. Amir had an introductory meeting with him that morning and got an uncanny feeling that he wasn’t going to be of much help as the Head of Operations.
No one is safe from jealousy. Either you are a victim of jealousy or a victim of someone else’s. You’ve also probably been in a sticky situation as a team-leader, when your subordinates are nurturing feelings of jealousy towards each other. Problems are being created but you find yourself at a loss as to how to deal with the issue.
Can the above stories be dismissed as myths or does jealousy really exist in the workplace? Let’s see what research has to say.
What does research say about jealousy?
A survey on the role jealousy plays in organizations was conducted by Frederick C. Miner Jr., Ph.D., and the results were published in the April 1990 issue of the “Personnel Journal”. It was found that more than 75% of the respondents reported observing a jealous situation in their work environment. What was really surprising was the fact that more than 50% indicated that they were directly involved in such a situation, and over 25% of the group admitted that they were jealous of someone else during the past month. In more than 33% of the situations, jealous people tried to undermine the co-workers they were jealous of by spreading rumors, acting destructively and so on.
In another survey on jealousy, the results were reported by “Notre Dame Magazine” in the summer issue of 1996. The survey conducted by Professor of Management Robert P. Vecchio cited that 77% of employees surveyed had witnessed jealousy around the office within the past month, and more than 50% admitted to being directly involved.
The above results point to the fact that jealousy is common in the workplace. Let’s see what guidance Islam gives about this very destructive emotion.
What does Islam say about jealousy?
The Prophet (sa) said: “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” (Abu Dawood)
In another Hadeeth, the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “There has come to you the disease of the nations before you, jealousy and hatred. This is the ‘shaver’ (destroyer); I do not say that it shaves hair, but that it shaves (destroys) faith.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Two things cannot be gathered in the heart of a believer, Iman (faith) and envy.” (An-Nasai)
It is very clear from the above Ahadeeth that jealousy should not be nurtured, and one should make an effort to cleanse one’s heart of this destructive emotion. Not doing so would put our faith in danger.
How to deal with jealousy?
Here are some tips on dealing with this emotion, and with people, who might turn green at the mention of your name.
If you are jealous of someone…
- Say Salam and shake hands with him
Jealousy breeds hatred and the word of Salam spreads love as we know from the following Hadeeth: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of that which will strengthen love between you? Spread (the greeting of) Salam amongst yourselves.” (At-Tirmidhi)
- Say a prayer of blessing for him
Upon feeling the pangs of jealousy, immediately say a prayer of blessing for that person and ask forgiveness from Allah (swt).
- Ask for contentment from Allah (swt)
One of the causes of jealousy is discontentment with the blessings given to you by Allah (swt). You can read the following Masnoon prayer to seek contentment: “O Allah! Make me content upon what (blessings) You have granted me and bless me in it; and be the Best Protector (and Guardian) for me (in my absence) of whatever is hidden from me.”
If someone is jealous of you…
Seek protection from Allah (swt)
Say a prayer seeking refuge with Allah (swt). Recitation of Surah Falaq (Chapter 113) and prayers of protection would save you from the harms of the person who is jealous.
You could recite the following prayer: “O Allah! Indeed we place You before them (our enemies) and we take refuge in You from their evil.” (Abu Dawood)
If you are a manager dealing with jealousies among your subordinates, then you should:
- Throw open the doors of communication
Understanding the reasons for an employee’s negative sentiment and trying to arrive at a solution to the problem would possibly result in curtailment of jealousy.
- Boost employee’s morale
By focusing on each employee’s positive aspects and abilities you could shift the attention away from destructive tendencies towards constructive efforts.
If you are a co-worker, then you could:
Convey to your colleague that jealousy is destructive
Tell your colleague that jealousy will take him down the drain both in this world and in the Hereafter; plus, the company will likely suffer.
Allah (swt) has said: “It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks, so that some may employ others in their work But the Mercy (Paradise) of your Lord is better than the (wealth of this world) which they amass.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:32)
It is clear from the above verse that the reason for some people getting more of this world than others is due to Allah’s (swt) wisdom and planning. Therefore, instead of rushing to get more of the possessions of this world, our sights should remain on the Hereafter. The fires of jealousy will then subside, Insha’Allah!
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said: “Umar Ibn Khattab wrote this letter to Abu Musa Al-Ashari: ‘Be content with your provision in this world, for the Most Merciful has honored some of His servants over others in terms of provision as a test of both. The one, who has been given plenty, is being tested to see if he will give thanks to Allah and fulfill the duties which are his by virtue of his wealth.’” (Ibn Hatim)