Behavioral Topics: Envy

Actualizado: jun 7

In workplaces, there are always opportunities for competition and social comparison among coworkers. While many times people compare themselves with others in a positive way in order to achieve career success, there are other times when these comparisons have the opposite result (Duffy et al., 2020). According to Duffy (2018), when people compare themselves negatively in the workplace, feelings of envy begin to emerge. Envy signals a threat to our self-esteem and is associated with unhappiness (Espín et al, 2018).

At Behave4, we define workplace envy as the aversion to inequality in the distribution of earnings/income when the individual receives less than others (relative disadvantageous position). Envious people suffer when they are worse off than other people, in relative terms.

Should we measure envy in a workplace environment?

The answer is yes, as there are different degrees of envy in each individual and it depends on the work context and the individual's personal life. For instance, there are some people with low levels of envy who do not mind if others have higher profits or benefits than they do, while others with high levels of envy are willing to incur a cost to prevent others from having higher profits or benefits than they do. However, certain levels of envy can be useful in improving work performance, as it would increase competitiveness (Lee & Duffy, 2019). In this way, it is possible to identify the source of good and bad practices within the workplace that can either enhance or hinder collaborative work, competitiveness or the assurance of a good working environment.

Order an Assessment Demo of Your Team's Social Profile and See How Strong Your Organizational Culture is on Envy and Compassion.


Duffy, M. K., Lee, K., & Adair, E. A. (2021). Workplace Envy. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 8(1), 19-44. tps://

Espín, A. M., Moreno-Herrero, D., Sánchez-Campillo, J., & Martín, J. A. (2018). Do Envy and Compassion Pave the Way to Unhappiness? Social Preferences and Life Satisfaction in a Spanish City. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi:10.1007/s10902-016-9828-8

Lee, K., & Duffy, M. K. (2019). A Functional Model of Workplace Envy and Job Performance: When do Employees Capitalize on Envy by Learning from Envied Targets? Academy of Management Journal, 62(4), 1085-1110. doi:10.5465/amj.2016.1202

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