That’s not fair! — Managing envy in the workplace

From University of Cincinnati:

Watching a co-worker get the extra respect and attention from a supervisor that you feel you deserve can leave you feeling envious. The more that envy increases the more you can become what researchers refer to as “ego depleted” — a general lack of the personal resources you need to focus on and complete daily tasks.

In a recent University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business study, Joel Koopman, UC assistant professor of management, looked at envy in the workplace. Koopman’s research found a strong link between an employee’s feelings of envy after they perceive a supervisor has treated them worse relative to their co-workers and the length of time by which they process this information.

Koopman refers to this phenomenon as a person’s level of “epistemic motivation” (EM) — the desire to process information thoroughly and grasp the meaning behind a particular situation. Some people are low in epistemic motivation and tend to generalize events into categories that can be easily explained and ignored, but those same people are not as skillful at solving novel problems in a creative environment.

On the contrary, Koopman says people high in such motivation are more sensitive to nuance and devote more time to processing new information as it comes in. In the case of envy, that skill can come at a cost.

“Research has shown that most creative working environments — ones that require a strong ability to negotiate and attend to detail — value employees who have a high level of epistemic motivation,” says Koopman. “But that same ability to process new information for creative output also tends to show its dark side when envy comes into play.”

He found that negative feelings were carried home with the envious, went to bed with them, woke up with them and stuck with them into the following day, …

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