How to Deal With Workplace Envy 

 December 13, 2016

envy in the workplace

Envy: the green-eyed monster. If you’re not careful this monster can destroy lives both professionally and personally.

As much as employers may not want to admit it, envy doesn’t leave itself at the company doors. Envy is present in every workplace and can have a considerable effect on your employees and organization as a whole.

According to a recent study by the University of Cincinnati School of Business, workplace envy can be extremely detrimental to employers and employees.

The study found that when an employee senses they’re being treated worse than their co-workers (situations that create envy) it can have a significant impact on productivity.

workplace envy

Still, envy doesn’t have to be something that’s brushed off as a “cost of business.” There are ways that both employer and employee can deal with, and manage workplace envy.

What is workplace envy?

We all have an understanding of what envy is, but let’s take a quick second to define what we mean by it. Workplace envy, as defined by Harvard Business Review, is the distress we feel when others get what we want.

Envy is a universal feeling. Everyone has been envious at least once in their lifetime. The issue isn’t whether or not an employee will ever feel envious; it’s how they deal with this feeling when it surfaces.

How does envy affect me?

Workplace envy has a powerful ability to impact your personal success in the workplace, negatively. This negative impact manifests itself in five main ways according to Forbes.

1. You lose your competitiveness

If you are always pining after what others have, you will begin to lose your desire to use your own gifts. Instead of releasing your total talent, you will spend too much time obsessing over others and making them into threats. This thought pattern blocks you from seeing potential opportunities in front of you.


2. You cannot be authentic

You can never be who you truly are if you constantly concern yourself with the actions of others. Instead of creating your own voice, you become stuck attempting to become someone or something you’re not.

3. Your ability to network is disturbed

If you are envious of those around you, you cannot build the respect and trust necessary to connect with other people. This inability to connect with others is an unyielding barrier to networking. If you can’t network you’ll miss out on plenty of potential business and career opportunities.

stress management

4. It is harder to trust yourself

The bitterness and animosity envy breeds can make it hard for you to believe in yourself. This lack of belief, in turn, makes it difficult to trust yourself. When you do not trust yourself, you won’t have the desire, or ability, to sell yourself, pursue other career opportunities, and engage in other positive, career actions.

5. Your self-worth and happiness begin to fade

Envy has a powerful ability to take control of your mind. When envy clouds your mind, it becomes tough to focus on your self-worth and happiness. Envy has the capability to consume these positive thoughts.

How can envy affect my business?

Envy can disrupt teams and undermine company performance by leading to missed opportunities and organizational inefficiency.

The first effect is rather obvious. If you are envious of another person, your relationship is bound to be strained, or not what it once was. If your personal relationship is strained, your work relationship will also be strained.

Damaged work relationships disrupt the effectiveness of your work teams. In a technology company studied by the Harvard Business Review, managers who felt threatened by another group’s ideas ignored those ideas.


Envy can lead to ideas, created within the business, to be ignored or dismissed entirely. When your company begins to stifle the creativity of its employees, they will leave (those who are most creative will be first).

In today’s economy, creativity is one of the most valuable assets your staff brings to the firm. The last thing your business should do is push the most creative workers out the door.

Employees can also begin to actively sabotage other employees because of envy. A different article from HBR describes an actual example of this scenario.

A top producer at a professional services firm resigned in part due to her colleagues. Her co-workers, fearing that she was becoming “too big of a name,” stopped sending her referrals and talked negatively about her to clients.


This type of intentional sabotage is clearly detrimental to your business. Deliberate sabotage of any employee, much less a high performer, negatively affects your business in several ways. Sabotage of this nature can:

— Lower team morale

— Worsen communication

— Increase turnover

— Decrease productivity

Managing envy in employees

We know that workplace envy is an inevitability. Therefore, anyone in a position of leadership needs to know how to recognize and manage envy in their subordinates. There are several tactics a leader can use to better control envy directed towards themselves or other team members.

Share power

Make sure that you’re sharing recognition with your subordinates, and promoting those who deserve it. Give your employees a range of assignments. Make sure you are spreading around opportunities to all your subordinates, not just a select few.

When you reward your employees with responsibility and credit, you gain recognition yourself. The more your subordinates succeed and are promoted, the better you look as a manager (We call this a win-win).

Turn a scarcity into something that is plentiful

Some resources (such as budgets) are fixed. Others are flexible and should be adjusted as needed. For example, if team members are always stepping over one another in meetings, guarantee each member one-on-one time with you every week.


When resources are shared, there’s no reason for someone to be envious of the resources another has. Sharing resources also lays a framework for your team members to collaborate better.

Separate an envier’s role and their target’s role when possible

Give enviers and those they envy, separate roles that result in different spheres of influence. If the two individuals are separated in a manner that severs direct comparison between the two, it helps to curtail workplace envy.

Promote open communication

Encourage your team members to be transparent, and always communicate how they feel. Open communication can help to nip envy in the bud. If a subordinate comes to you to share their envious feelings make sure you listen.

Together, you can work to figure out why they’re envious and generate a solution for this feeling. Stopping envy before it reaches critical mass works to eliminate many of its negative manifestations.

Assess emotional maturity of applicants

If you want to take a proactive approach to managing workplace envy, start with the application process. Make sure that this process includes an assessment of each candidate’s emotional maturity.

Evaluating the emotional maturity of each applicant can help weed out those who would be more susceptible to feelings of envy.

Managing envy in yourself

Envy can ruin your relationships and hinder your career. Here are 10 tips you can use to control the envy you feel internally.

1. Identify what makes you envious

It pays to be self-aware. Everyone needs to recognize the circumstances and qualities in others that activates your envy. For example, do you envy those who make more money than you? Those who garner more praise?


Once you accurately identify what makes you envious, you can begin to fight these feelings. This practice also helps you determine areas you care about the most. If you recognize the importance of these areas, you can then work to improve your feelings about them.

2. Stay away from triggers

After you identify what makes you envious, STAY AWAY FROM IT! Do your best to avoid people or events that trigger your feeling of envy. This avoidance shouldn’t be permanent, just until you can lessen the impact of your envy.

Don’t be rude to anyone, but if you’re feeling envious towards Mark (for example), try to avoid him until you can see him in a more positive light. (In Mark’s case it might even be okay to be envious of Mark. Nobody likes Mark.)

3. Learn from experience

Let’s say Marcy got a promotion. If you find yourself feeling envious of Marcy’s new position, examine the situation to see what you can learn from it. Perhaps Marcy got the job because she does a better job of networking within the company.

You can use this information to better yourself. If Marcy got promoted through her superior networking skills, begin to improve your own. Learn from your experiences and grow into a better employee and person.

4. Accept the fact that we all have mixed feelings about other’s success

If you are disappointed or envious because of someone’s success, you are not a bad person. Do not punish yourself, or tell yourself you don’t have those feelings. It’s natural to want to succeed. And natural to be disappointed when you don’t.

5. Be honest with yourself

Don’t lie to yourself and try to convince yourself that you are not feeling envy when you are. As previously said, look at each situation and determine why you are envious. Getting to the root of your feelings is the only way to move past them. Ignoring your feelings will only let them fester, and ultimately, worsen.

6. Assess whether any of your negative feelings are justified

It could be possible the way you are feeling is completely justified. The playing field may not be even. There could be favoritism or cheating involved. If, upon reflection, you truly believe there was inequality involved talk to a manager, HR representative, or even a colleague.


When engaging in one of these conversations make sure you (and the talk itself) stay as constructive as possible. Don’t let the discussion devolve into gossip or baseless accusations.

7. Don’t focus on other people; focus yourself

When you compare yourself to others too much, it can lead to feelings of envy. Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare your current self to your past self. This comparison allows you to see areas in which you’ve grown and areas you may need to improve.

8. Take a deep breath and congratulate your colleague

You cannot be the winner every time. Still, when you’re not the winner, (this is a “when” and not an “if”) be gracious in defeat and learn how to celebrate others’ success. The world is a large place, and most of the time there’s room enough for everyone to have successes.

9. Find different victories

If you lose out on one opportunity, don’t get envious. Rather, turn your attention to another goal. When you set this different goal, make sure that it focuses on things that you do well, or are unique to you.

10. Affirm yourself

When you feel you’re threatened or becoming envious, try to positively affirm yourself. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes. Positive reinforcement can go a long way towards easing the intensity of potential envy.

The Wrap

Workplace envy is a powerful enemy. It has the potential to threaten personal relationships, career advancement, and organizational success. Still, workplace envy is not an unbeatable foe.

Use these tips to manage your feelings (and the feelings of your employees) so well they become envious of the way you handle envy.