How Managers Should Manage Workplace Envy

How Managers Should Manage Workplace Envy

Envy is all around us, regardless of the context and circumstances, in all aspects of our personal and professional lives.

This is especially true of the workplace and specifically in the way in which people work towards their objectives and targets.

The challenge for any manager is to channel this negative energy into something far more positive and productive, for the team, the wider organisation and the individual.

This can be achieved through the following strategies:

  1. Channelling Envy

Transforming the destructive aspects of envy into constructive emotions, or at least reducing its damage, is an essential starting point in this process. Controlling the harmful effects of envy will automatically improve working relationships and outputs. This process is all about bringing envy out into the open where staff can discuss its effects which will almost inevitably have a focus around an honest conversation that unpicks rivalries and perceived inequalities that then undermine effectiveness and efficiency.


Managers can help here by being open about the parameters for making decisions and the standards by which employees are assessed and promoted. Are these tools valid, precise and fair and can you justify them?


  1. Team management

Envy can be reduced by sharing power, giving away responsibility and giving credit to staff whenever possible. Good teamwork is helped and developed through increasing the availability of scarce resources around the team and setting targets carefully so that they do not create a sense of competition and unnecessary stress.


Well-managed teams should be discouraged away from competition and making unhealthy comparisons by setting up unique and separate tasks to be completed by team members using feedback in a sensitive manner so as to eliminate any issues that may create a sense of insecurity and envy.  Team meetings need to be open, truthful, and run in a way that ensures that everyone’s opinions matter and are valued as such.


  1. Rewards and Recognition

Explicit, often public and glitzy, recognition of work done by both individuals and teams generates a very high level of envy and stress so to make this a fair process, which does not work to alienate staff, we need to have clear, objective and very transparent criteria that make these decisions credible.


Any payment rates used by management must be fully aligned to the demonstration of key tasks and should specifically detail the demonstration and delivery of key skills and attributes. Critically, managers need to use a system of reward and recognition that balances the benefits of competition that seek to motivate employees with its costs in terms of the development of envy amongst the wider staff group.

Any management system is prone to the rise and development of envy in its various forms and managers need to be fully aware of this process as it will undermine efforts to achieve targets and complete objectives.

Good Luck!

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