Envy culture and German Gratismut

Why you need to be more active in shaping your organisational culture

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash


The incidents at present are numerous, so two factors stand here as representative examples in the discourse. Firstly, the German Minister of Economics, Robert Habeck (Green Party), is looking for a photographer to accompany him on international trips. A budget of 350,000 euros was offered for this, based on two years of planning. The public rages and almost declares it a national disaster.


The daily rates for a photographer calculated by the Federal Minister of Economics are on the lower edge of the usual fees for good self-employed photographers. Objectively, there is nothing unreasonable about the payment. The envy culture, however, always focuses on one statement: I do not have it, so nobody else can have it — a distraction from the core issue. The correct core question is whether a German Minister of Economics needs a photographer on his travels for years. A clear no is undoubtedly the correct answer here. In his position, Habeck receives sufficient photo material so that a tax-financed and rather narcissistic-looking photographer’s companion is not a sensible investment — especially not if taxes finance it from the working population. The culture of envy, however, leaves out the core question and deals with purely self-referential sensitivities.


It is the task of management to intervene proactively in both cases. However, self-reflection on the situation is equally necessary. Envy culture can also arise because you, as an organisation, practice or promote precarious employment. If this is not the case, steer any discussion towards the correct factual issue. Tolerance of envy culture is inappropriate, and zero tolerance is the right course of action. Envy culture, however, does not end with purely financial aspects. When leaders arbitrarily do not accept working from home or other locations, it is often based on envy. This option was not available to those leaders in the past, so it is not offered to a successor generation. Self-reflection by management is critical here.



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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.