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How To Keep Envy From Destroying Your Workplace

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little inside. — Gore Vidal

We’re no stranger to the feelings of envy. A coworker gets the promotion you thought you deserved; a friend’s career skyrockets past yours; someone else somewhere did something that you didn’t even know you wanted but now you do.


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…It turns out that those who envy affects most deeply might be your creative thinkers.

“…the workers who are valuable for problem-solving, skilled negotiating and finding timely solutions are also the ones who ruminate longer over processing the social injustice and envy they feel … this resulted in a higher degree of ego depletion and negatively affected their overall productivity.”

Thus, it’s crucial that leaders keep themselves in check with regard to how they treat everyone. If one employee perceives themselves to be treated worse than another, this creates the envy downward spiral, which leads to ego depletion and valuable time wasted.


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“I have a best friend at work”

“My supervisor and other people care about me as a person.”

These social connections mean a lot to people.


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Supportive, Friendly Competition

Focus on how everyone’s individual efforts help the entire team achieve success. Remain alert for signs that people have crossed the line: unwarranted complaints about others, angry outbursts, backstabbing, finger pointing, even sabotage.


Maintain an open-door policy that encourages people to speak candidly about their feelings. When you must do something that might cause feelings of envy or schadenfreude (e.g., adding a teammate; promoting, demoting, or rewarding someone), do it openly and make your reasons perfectly clear to all concerned.


Mentoring opens up the line of communication and reduces preconceived notions and assumptions that can fuel the envy flame. Good mentorship also provides opportunities for the mentor to learn from the student, which further humanizes the mentor and may reduce envy or hard feelings.

Balance the Scales

Cultivate a sense of fairness and justice. Make sure everyone understands the reward system and clearly communicate why someone has received a reward and how others can win, too. Look for injustices and swiftly correct them. Scan for your own biases as well: recognize when you unfairly grant a favor or make an exception for one person and not another.

Address Conflict

You can usually see malicious envy brewing. The minute you see it, address it. When people know their boss really cares about and respects their feelings, they will speak up when the good fight takes a bad turn.

Develop Team Spirit

Invest time developing a team that “plays nice” and competes cheerfully and positively. Lead the team in socializing outside of work so they can get to know each other better and form closer connections.


We may not like to admit we do it, but we all compare ourselves to others. It’s only natural. It’s how we measure our own progress in the world.

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Written by

Bringing human nature back into business. Organizational Psychologist | Speaker | Coach | Author |

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