The two faces of envy: Studying benign and malicious envy in the workplace

Christopher M. Sterling, Niels van de Ven, Richard H. Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


As this book shows, we are starting to understand more about the nature of envy, the content of its emotional experience, and its effects in an organization. Envy is the result of an upward social comparison, one that signals to someone that he or she lacks desired abilities, traits or rewards enjoyed by another. Organizational scholars recognize that social comparison and envy should be prevalent in organizations as employees are often subject to hierarchical stratification and often compete for scarce organizational rewards, managerial attention, and social status (Vecchio, 1997). Equity theorists and organizational justice theorists have long recognized the importance of comparisons in the workplace, as employees weigh social information obtained from observing and communicating with their peers to make sense of their workplace (Adams, 1965; Greenberg, 1982; Ambrose, Harland, & Kulik, 1991; Folger & Cropanzano, 2001). However, the acknowledgment of social comparison processes is often treated more implicitly in organizational research and a direct examination of the results of social comparison processes has largely been missing in the organizational literature (Duffy, 2008). This is changing, however, as organizational scholars are realizing the important role that emotions play in motivating organizational behavior (e.g., Gino, Chapter 3, this book). A few of the more negative social emotions those resulting from unfavorable comparisons, such as shame, jealousy and envy are related to a wide variety of disruptive and destructive workplace behaviors (Poulson, 2000; Vecchio, 2005). As a result of this association, coupled with a growing interest in workplace deviance, social comparison and social emotions are receiving an increasing amount of attention in organizational scholarship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvy at Work and in Organizations
Subtitle of host publicationResearch, Theory, and Applications
EditorsR.H. Smith, U. Merlone, M.K. Duffy
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190228057
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Envy
  • organization


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