Workplace Envy: Exploring the Effect of Envy on Team Communication and Organizational Information Sharing


In a competitive work environment, envy is a common emotion for employees at all levels of the organization. However, in an organization, when unchecked, envy can hinder effective communication and become disruptive to the organization’s performance. The intent of this systematic review is to identify the antecedents of workplace envy and its influence on communication and information sharing in organizations. Social exchange theory (SET) was selected as the theoretical lens for this research because it provides an explanation of how organizations can leverage the social interactions between employees to increase organizational engagement and productivity. Through a systematic review of several research articles, 13 peer-reviewed studies were synthesized to help answer the research question: How does workplace envy affect team communication and information sharing in organizations? Specifically, the selected articles provided guidance on how to reduce the negative effect of workplace envy on organizational communication and information sharing. Finally, based on the results of the research, three recommendations were presented for organizations to consider.

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Wilkes, D. (2023) Workplace Envy: Exploring the Effect of Envy on Team Communication and Organizational Information Sharing. Open Journal of Business and Management, 11, 1757-1786. doi: 10.4236/ojbm.2023.114099.

1. Introduction

In a successful organization, healthy and effective communication is important to organizational performance. In any business, effective communication is essential to building a collaborative team, performing daily tasks, and meeting organizational performance goals. Moreover, in the workplace, communication plays a crucial role in the transfer of knowledge and helps to reduce organizational inefficiencies (Erdil & Müceldili, 2014) . Ultimately, effective communication helps organizations achieve better results by encouraging employee engagement and fostering employee satisfaction. However, sometimes organizational communication becomes challenged by barriers, such as workplace envy, that introduce counterproductive and socially undermining behaviors to the office (Cure, 2021) .

Envy is a normal emotion that many individuals have experienced in different situations. Envy usually occurs when there is a perception of inequality and stems from feelings of insecurity or inadequacy (González-Navarro et al., 2018) . However, when introduced into a work environment, envy can lead to negative outcomes, which can cause individuals to use destructive or counterproductive work behaviors (CWB), influence team interactions, and hinder information sharing among co-workers (González-Navarro et al., 2018) . When envy is prevalent and uncontrolled in an organization, it can serve as an obstacle to effective organizational communication and become disruptive to the organization’s performance. This systematic review aims to identify the antecedents of workplace envy and its influence on communication and information sharing in organizations. Specifically, this research seeks to explore organizational management strategies that supervisors and managers can use to mitigate the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication.

1.1. Problem

In an organization, feelings of envy are usually fueled by social comparison or feelings of insecurity. It is natural to measure your progress at work and in life against others you admire or regard as successful. And now with friends, family, and colleagues having more access to our lives via social media, there are more opportunities for people to see our accomplishments and successes. Due to this rise of individuals sharing more and more of their life experiences on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, envy has become more prevalent in the world and the office.

Although professional envy is natural, envious employees in an organization can be dangerous at any level. While envy can serve as a motivating force that boosts team performance and fosters friendly competition between colleagues, it also is regarded as a negative emotion associated with undesirable consequences (Thompson et al., 2016) . If not controlled or regulated, envy can damage the bonds between co-workers, hinder the exchange of information between teams, and disrupt the overall performance of an organization (Erdil & Müceldili, 2014) . Envy can create adversarial and antagonistic relationships among colleagues, which leads to a breakdown of information sharing, resulting in a loss of internal knowledge and collaboration that helps develop innovative and creative ideas for the organization. Additionally, envy can damper group learning, making it difficult to create and innovate ideas within an organization (Malik, 2016) . In a competitive organization envy can be prevalent, it is a natural human emotion that cannot be eliminated. However, if organizations can identify the antecedents to workplace envy, they will be able to control and overcome any actions that trigger negative effects. Therefore, organizations must discover management strategies to incorporate into their internal business processes that will help mitigate the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication.

1.2. Research Question

To help develop a focused research question, the CIMO framework was used. The acronym CIMO refers to the five elements of a searchable question: Context; Intervention; Mechanisms; and Outcome (Denyer et al., 2008) . The CIMO was used because it is a framework commonly used to develop management and policy questions (Denyer et al., 2008) . As shown in Table 1, different parts of the research question are identified using the CIMO criteria. The question guiding this systematic review is: “How does workplace envy affect team communication and information sharing in organizations?”

1.3. Research Structure

This article begins by defining the concept of envy and how this concept develops in different organizational settings. The article then identifies and defines the theoretical lens, social exchange theory, used to assess the management problem. Subsequently, the article offers a comprehensive description of the methodology which notes that a rapid evidence assessment was conducted, in which a detailed search for literature was performed to locate relevant articles,

Table 1. CIMO framework management question.

followed by the application of a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria to reduce selection bias. The article then describes the critical appraisal of the selected articles, to ensure the quality of the articles and data pulled from them. Following the critical appraisal, three levels of thematic coding was performed, which resulted in two themes. The study then presents a conceptual model and provides a discussion and analysis of the implementation of the research. Finally, the article offers recommendations for management, and presents limitations and areas for future research.

2. Literature Background

In a competitive work environment, envy is a common emotion for employees at all levels of the organization. Khan et al. (2009) defined envy as a discrete emotion that occurs when an individual lacks a quality, achievement, or possession that another individual has, and they desire. Cure (2021) and González-Navarro et al. (2018) described it as an emotion that emerges due to competition for resources, time, or promotions and is usually introduced into a work environment when employees question the fairness and integrity of a corporation. Similarly, Sterling and Labianca (2015) noted that typically envy is linked closely to issues of fairness due to employees’ expectation of a fair and just work environment. Fundamentally, envy can be described as a predictor of competitiveness and organizational justice (Khan et al., 2009; Khan et al., 2014) . Often, in common discussion, jealousy is used interchangeably with envy. However, jealousy is a construct of envy, and appears when an individual feels that someone they envy is threatening their connection to a treasured possession or relationship (Thompson et al., 2016) . For this research, envy will be defined as an emotion that emerges in a competitive environment because an employee feels inferior or subordinate to another person, due to the employee lacking a quality, achievement, or possession (Battle & Diab, 2022; Cure, 2021; González-Navarro et al. 2018; Khan et al., 2014) .

Although envy is mostly considered as a negative sentiment associated with undesirable organizational consequences; it can also serve as a motivating force that encourages team performance and fosters friendly competition between colleagues (Thompson et al., 2016) . In fact, Sebrant (2008) suggested that envy can be a constructive and motivational force that prompts positive and productive work actions like most emotions. Defined by Battle and Diab (2022) as benign envy, workplace envy associated with positive emotions and encouraging behavior can contribute to organizational growth and productivity. Duffy et al. (2020) also discussed benign envy as a construct that “prompts constructive actions designed to address the imbalance via self-enhancement” (p. 21). Similarly, Malik (2016) suggested that envy creates a natural drive for employees to try to surpass their peers, and although envy derives from a mix of emotions: insecurity, competitiveness, self-awareness, and dissatisfaction, if harnessed the correct way, it can be used to cultivate positive organizational outcomes. Therefore, there is a need to examine and develop management strategies for developing and cultivating healthy and productive behaviors from envious employees.

As previously acknowledged, envy does not always result in negative emotions or activities, however, research has shown that envious employees are less willing to share information and contribute to the organization’s creative process (Mao et al., 2021; Xu et al., 2021) . Duffy et al. (2020) noted that this reaction is usually due to what is defined as malicious envy. Battle and Diab (2022) and Duffy et al. (2020) described malicious envy as an emotion that results in destructive actions and behaviors, which are focused on removing the envied target’s advantage. Due to these destructive tendencies associated with malicious envy, it makes it hard for teams to communicate, share ideas, and explore avenues of innovation (Malik, 2016) . In fact, Mao et al. (2021) noted that an organization’s creative process focuses on discussing ideas and exchanging information, a process in which effective communication is the key element. Fundamentally, malicious envy can damage work relationships, disrupt team productivity, and challenge organizational performance (Malik, 2016) . According to Sterling and Labianca (2015) , employees who experience malicious envy in the workplace are more likely to resign or engage in counterproductive behavior, such as undermining co-workers and workplace sabotage. To overcome these direct and indirect effects of workplace envy, there is a need to understand how to manage employees exhibiting signs of envy and help them replace these emotions with more productive work habits (Malik, 2016) .

Duffy et al. (2020) noted that there is increased interest in the effects of workplace envy on organizational functions and encouraged researchers to focus efforts on developing a better understanding of the space between the experience of envy and its outcomes. Therefore, this research will focus on viable strategies that could help alleviate the negative impact of envy on organizational communication by exploring the management problem through the social exchange theory. As described by Cropanzano and Mitchell (2005) , the social exchange theory works on the tenet that relationships are based on social and economic transactions and exchanges. By removing emotions from the interaction, the social exchange theory provided guidance for establishing “rules and norms” of social interactions that help employees become trusting, loyal, and committed to the organization and its mission (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005) . Since the social exchange theory is not a single theory, but a family of conceptual models, it can be used to describe various organizational behaviors and management issues (Cropanzano et al., 2017) .

2.1. Literature Review—Theory

Social exchange theory (SET) was selected for this research because it provides a lens on how organizations can leverage the social interactions between employees to increase organizational engagement and productivity. Specifically, it was selected for its focus on relationship building and knowledge sharing. As described by Meira and Hancer (2021) , social exchange theory posits that employees will give extra effort when they feel that the organization has invested in their well-being. Similarly, Cropanzano et al. (2017) noted that SET describes concepts that encourage employees to engage in relationships that create mutal commitments for all involved and eventually positively influences organizational outcomes. While SET is composed of different conceptual models and has many uses, the consistent theme among all its forms is that over time, in a group setting, trusting relationships are established through equally beneficial social exchanges (Cropanzano, 2013; McLeod et al., 2021) .

The initial inspiration for the social exchange theory can be attributed to Adam Smith, who through his theory of the “invisible hand”, introduced the concept of reciprocity that would become the main component of the modern social exchange theory (Cropanzano, 2013) . Smith argued that self-interest was the key reason for individuals to act in a social exchange (Cropanzano, 2013) .

Using the foundation laid by Smith, Albert Chavannes began to modernize social exchange theory by including additional reasons for actions, such as a sense of duty and beneficial exchanges (Cropanzano, 2013) . Throughout the years, many scholars have contributed to the theory’s evolution, including Bronisław Malinowski, who described what is now called a “social exchange relationship”, a term that maintains that people support one another with the expectation that any exchanges or transactions would pay out over time (Cropanzano, 2013) . Social exchange theory ultimately took its current form in the early 1960s, however, most contemporary research still draws on the theoretical perspectives originally forged by Smith, Chavannes, and Malinowski (Cropanzano, 2013) .

McLeod et al. (2021) discussed two main concepts for social exchange theory, reciprocal and negotiated. The first concept, social reciprocity, claims that employees are encouraged to perform better, contribute more, and carry out positive behaviors when they feel they have received satisfactory treatment at work (Simbula et al., 2023) . This concept is initiated when employees perform beneficial acts, such as knowledge sharing, without knowing if the same act or treatment will be returned (McLeod et al., 2021; Simbula et al., 2023) . The second concept, social negotiation, allows employees to bargain the terms or rules that would enable all parties to reach the interdependent goals (Ahmad et al., 2023; McLeod et al., 2021) .

McLeod et al. (2021) noted that during a negotiated exchange, the outcome or benefits of the interaction is predetermined. While the goal of both concepts is for participating parties to benefit from the social exchange, a reciprocated exchange usually results in intangible awards such as influence, friendship, or trust, while a negotiated exchange typically ends with more tangible awards such as money (Ahmad et al., 2023; McLeod et al., 2021) .

Information sharing is a final social exchange concept to consider when trying to encourage collaborative performance. Wang et al. (2019) described information sharing as a social process that promotes cooperation and efficiency, which will help improve team communication and organizational operations. Information sharing also improves the trust between the employees, team members, and the organization (Wang et al., 2019) . Considered the “rule and norms” of social exchange, the concepts of reciprocity, negotiation, and information sharing offer insight into mitigating the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication and knowledge sharing.

2.2. Theoretical Lens

The conceptual framework in Figure 1 presents a visual illustration of SET as it pertains to the current management problem, the negative effects of workplace envy on organizational communication and knowledge sharing. As previously discussed, SET is a framework that consists of several conceptual models (Cropanzano, 2013) . However, this research focused on the reciprocal exchange, negotiated exchange, and information sharing concepts. In Figure 1, the initial exchange starts with an identified envious employee (green box, far left of graphic) (Duffy et al., 2020) . If the employee has benign envy, envy which motivates the employee to constructively participate in the activities that benefit the organization, then the employee will naturally choose to participate in a reciprocal social exchange (solid blue lines) (Duffy et al., 2020) . Following the blue lines (the reciprocal social exchange), the benign envious employee would participate in the office’s regular social norms and information exchange, eventually contributing to the team’s engagement and the organization’s overall productivity (blue square box, far right side of the graphic). The benign envious employee’s

Figure 1. Initial conceptual framework of social exchange theory. Note. Adapted from “Impact of Control and Trust on Megaproject Success: The Mediating Role of Social Exchange Norms. Advances in Civil Engineering,” by D. Wang, S. Fang, and H. Fu, 2019, Advances in Civil Engineering, p. 6 ( Copyright 2019 by Wang et al.

actions will eventually be reciprocated, building trust between the employee, the team, and the organization (blue dotted lines).

In contrast to the benign envious employee, if the employee has malicious envy, envy which causes employees to become disruptive, they will need to participate in a negotiated social exchange (orange dotted arrows) to compel them to provide the needed asset to the organization (Duffy et al., 2020) . Since the purpose of the negotiation is to ensure that both the employee and the organization benefit from the social exchange, the negotiation process may go back and forward, therefore this process is represented by double-headed arrows. Once the negotiation exchange is complete, the employee would actively participate in the office’s social norms and information sharing and eventually participate in team communication contributing to the overall productivity. However, unlike the benign envious employee, the malicious employee does not have a direct feedback loop to assist with building organizational and team trust.

3. Methodology

A rapid evidence assessment (REA) was conducted to provide an evidence-based assessment of the management problem. An REA is a systematic review (SR) used to collect information and provide evidence-based recommendations concerning an impending issue in a short period (Varker et al., 2015) . The intent of this systematic review is to identify the antecedents of workplace envy and its influence on communication and information sharing in organizations. The following sections describe the literature search strategies, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and the literature coding used during the systematic review.

3.1. Search Strategy

For this REA, a detailed search of relevant scholarly articles was conducted through a university’s online library. The databases searched included Google Scholar and the library’s OneSearch database aggregator. OneSearch is a tool that simultaneously searches 43 databases including: Academic Search Ultimate, Business Source Ultimate, Emerald Insight, and JSTOR.

3.2. Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

This study aimed to conduct an exhaustive search of both qualitative and quantitative articles that focus on workplace envy and information sharing. For this REA, the search elements were limited to peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2022, with the expectation of research used to support the establishment of a framework and formulate the research topic. The publication years were limited to the last 22 years to ensure the assessment would be based on recent research. Once the search was completed, articles were rejected based on duplication, year, language, quality (peer-reviewed), and relevance. The search strategy combinations of key terms and inclusions/exclusion criteria are captured in Table 2.

Table 2. Search strings used to conduct literature review.

3.3. Study Selection

The combined search strings yielded 3218 articles. After the exclusion criteria were applied, the number of articles were narrowed to 495. The list was further narrowed down to 20 based on whether the articles’ titles and abstracts conveyed the contents of the paper and gave sound indications about their relevance to the research question (American Psychological Association, 2020) . Moving past the title and abstract; in the final round of study selection, the introduction, research methods, results, and conclusions were reviewed to select the final 13 articles.

The snowball method was also performed to retrieve additional articles that addressed the management problem. Three articles were selected from reference lists of articles found during the initial search. One source was selected to include in the critical appraisal, “Consequences of Downward Envy: A Model of Self-Esteem Threat, Abusive Supervision, and Supervisory Leader Self-Improvement.” This source was selected based on the title, the abstract, and the discussion. A full copy of the article was retrieved from the university’s online library.

The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) diagram in Figure 2 illustrates the search strategy for this report. The PRISMA flow diagram is a research tool generally used to delineate the review process of articles collected to address the management problem (Moher et al., 2009) . The PRISMA diagram in Figure 2 depicts the number of articles included in the synthesis, based on the records that were screened and passed the eligibility criteria.

3.4. Data Extraction

During the literature review, a data extraction protocol was applied to ensure that the appropriate evidence from the selected articles was reviewed (Higgins et al., 2022) . The data extracted from each article included the title, author(s), year of publication, research question, phenomenon(a) studied, research method, and results of the study. A complete record of the data extracted is in Table A1, Appendix A.

Figure 2. PRISMA diagram. Note. This diagram was adapted from “The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement,” by D. Moher, A. Liberati, J. Tetzlaff, D. G. Altmann, and The PRISMA Group, 2009, BMJ, 339, p. 8, Copyright 2009 by The PRISMA Group.

3.5. Critical Appraisal

To appraise the quality of the selected articles, the TAPUPAS framework was used to evaluate each article. TAPUPAS refers to the standards used to evaluate the quality of the study: transparency, accessibility, purposivity, utility, propriety, accuracy, and specificity (Ryan & Rutty, 2019) . The TAPUPAS framework was selected as the critical appraisal tool for this REA, because it symbolizes the good principles in research and analysis (Tod et al., 2021) . Additionally, it can be used to assess both qualitative and quantitative research. The TAPUPAS analysis scoring tool created and used by the author of this article is located in Appendix B.

Using the criteria originally created by Pawson et al. (2003) and modified by Ryan and Rutty (2019) , each standard within the framework is rated on a scale of 0 - 2; with 2 equaling very good or exceeds the criterion, 1 equaling good or meets the criterion, and 0 equaling not good or the criterion is missing. After each article was appraised, the scores were added to give a final score; the maximum score was 14, and the lowest score was 0. Articles that received a score of 11 or higher, were considered beneficial to the research and were included in the coding process. As recommended by Armstrong et al. (2015) , 11 was selected as the appraisal threshold to ensure that lower quality articles would be excluded from the assessment. Due to the short timeline of this REA, it was important to select a baseline which would guarantee that only the high quality and relevant articles were included in the final assessment. Of the 20 articles appraised, 13 articles received a score of 11 or higher. Results of article appraisals are captured in Table A2, Appendix C. Following the evaluation, thematic coding was conducted on the articles with high scores. For this systematic review, coding was done using Atlas.ti, a software tool used for qualitative analysis.

4. Coding

Using Atlas.ti.23. thematic coding was performed on the findings and discussion section of the 13 identified articles. A blended approach of deductive and inductive coding was used for this research. A blended approach gives the researcher the flexibility of focusing on the theoretical framework or engaging with data (Linneberg & Korsgaard, 2019) . The first cycle of coding began by applying deductive codes to relevant information based on SET concepts. The author also used inductive coding to capture emerging ideas throughout the text (Linneberg & Korsgaard, 2019) . The second round of coding was used to ensure that all codes were consistently applied throughout the coding process. At the end of the second round of coding, there were a total of 15 codes.

A third round of coding was used to categorize the codes created in the first and second rounds. The author reviewed the data and codes from the first two rounds and sectioned the codes into three different categories. Each category was selected based on similarities between the codes or if they applied to the same concept (Elliott, 2018) . In the final round of coding, the categories were organized into two emerging themes: Envy Management and Organizational Engagement Strategies. Table 3 contains a full summary of the coding results.

Table 3. Codes, categories, and themes summary.

5. Results

This section provides a brief literature review of the concepts used in the research which helped develop the final recommendations to the research question: “How does workplace envy affect team communication and information sharing in organizations?” As previously described, after using a blended coding process, two themes were extracted from the data: Envy Management and Organizational Engagement Strategies. Each theme summarizes the information within the research that relates to the research question and helps to capture major concepts indexed by the coding process (Elliott, 2018; Linneberg & Korsgaard, 2019) . The two themes described as follows, illustrate the major ideas formed from the data collected from the research.

5.1. Organizational Engagement Strategies Strengthen Information Sharing

Organizational engagement strategies can be described as procedures or guidelines used to minimize social comparison and enhance equity among employees while also developing a strong culture of cooperation (Zurriaga et al., 2020 ). This concept is further defined by Xu et al. (2021) as practices used by managers to boost social exchanges and employee collaboration, which promotes information sharing throughout the organization. This theme, which is echoed throughout eight of the 13 articles selected for this systematic review, supports organizations using intervention type management strategies to reduce competitiveness among employees and to create a positive and healthy work culture.

Beginning with Wu et al. (2021) who suggested that managers and supervisors should support activities and policies that encourage employees to engage in supportive and accommodating working relationships with their co-workers, fundamentally diminishing environments where workplace envy could damage team communication. This theme is further reflected by Tussing et al. (2022) , as the authors discussed how managers should leverage practices that discourage social comparison, as these types of activities introduce counterproductive work behaviors into the organization and threaten the organization’s mission. Largely, Tussing et al. (2022) realized organizations that have tasks contingent on employees working together to achieve organizational goals must be careful about creating competitive work environments which allows workplace envy to threaten the overall mission. Similarly, Mao et al. (2021) contributed to the theme by noting that leaders must circumvent any interpersonal emotions among team members that could impede the team’s overall performance. Khan et al. (2014) emphasized that when an organization mediates and creates a just working environment, counterproductive work behavior and other aggressive behaviors created by workplace envy are reduced. In essence, organizations must create a culture of sharing by building interdependent working relationships between employees.

In their research, Wu et al. (2021) revealed that to create a work environment that encourages cooperation and collaboration, organizations must build a culture that highlights shared interests and goals. Tussing et al. (2022) found that organizations could successfully achieve a culture of cooperation and collaboration by setting interdependent goals, where employees would rely on each other for success. Specifically, Tussing et al. (2022) found that when employees are united or engaged, they are less likely to participate in activities that would jeopardize their healthy work life. Like Tussing et al. (2022) , Mao et al. (2021) emphasized creating collective objectives to encourage team performance and collaboration. Finally, Taj et al. (2020) and González-Navarro et al. (2018) noted that creating situations where employees are engaged in high quality relationships would create a healthy work environment with minimum occurrences of negative interactions or social comparisons, allowing for more opportunities for information sharing.

5.2. Envy Management Strategies Reduce Counterproductive Work Behaviors

As defined by Erdil and Müceldili (2014) , envy management strategies are activities or practices that take advantage of the potential positive effects of workplace envy. This concept was further defined by Yu et al. (2018) as guidelines that offer organizations an effective way to regulate employee emotions stemming from envy in the workplace, giving managers and supervisors a means to benefit from the productive outcomes of workplace envy. This concept of creating positive organizational change through benign workplace envy was mentioned by eight of the 13 articles selected for this systematic review.

From a review of the evidence, the research shows that organizations would benefit from focusing efforts on training supervisory leaders to recognize, understand, and channel envious employees towards formal and informal sources of self-improvement (Srivastava et al., 2022) . Specifically, Khan et al. (2009) posited that once recognized, managers can reduce counterproductive behaviors stimulated by workplace envy by encouraging employees to engage in activities which are self-affirming and self-restorative. Additionally, Wu et al. (2021) argued that organizations can reduce employee conflict and improve team communication by providing training in interpersonal communication. Finally, Zurriaga et al. (2020) found that training and coaching allow employees to receive feedback on how to handle negative emotions and provide the employee with a sense of control. Essentially, once recognized, counterproductive work behaviors stemming from maliacous envy should be neutralized by diverting the employees’ attention to more productive and constructive activities such as career development and training.

While much of the literature concerning envy management strategies focused on training, counseling, and coaching as a moderator for workplace envy, the remaining studies, Xu et al. (2021) and Duffy et al. (2020) , highlighted the importance of establishing procedures that prompt organizational justice and open team communication. Xu et al. (2021) noted that envy can be constructive in the workplace when justice and information sharing is endorsed for both the envied employee and the envious employee. Duffy et al. (2020) also recommended channeling envy into a more constructive direction, which would prevent it from escalating into disruptive behavior or activities. Both Xu et al. (2021) and Duffy et al. (2020) suggested that organizations should divert envious employees by reducing perceptions of unfairness and providing more opportunities for career growth, promotions, and awards. This action would create an agreeable work climate that would help boost employees’ social exchange and collaboration, which is essential for information sharing throughout an organization (Xu et al., 2021) . Fundamentally, organizations must create a less competitive work culture, which would reduce occurrence of envy.

5.3. Summary of Results

This study started by examining the different management strategies that organizations could use to mitigate the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication and employee information sharing. Using a systematic review, 13 studies were selected to contribute to answering the research question due to their emphasis on providing supervisory leadership tools for managing envious employees and harnessing the positive outcomes of workplace envy. Specifically, the selected articles provided guidance on reducing counterproductive work behaviors from envious employees and improving information sharing through different intervention techniques to reduce competitiveness, create shared goals, and promote organizational justice. Using the existing studies to review various management approaches has provided insight into how different management strategies, such as coaching, training, and internal policy changes, harness the positive consequences of workplace envy.

6. Conceptual Model

The conceptual model in Figure 3 illustrates the social exchange concepts that can help reduce the impact of workplace envy on organizational communication and information sharing.

In the revised framework, illustrated in Figure 3, the findings from the systematic review are incorporated into the organization’s social exchange process. As previously discussed, if an employee has malicious envy, additional steps are needed to prompt the employee to participate in the office’s social norms and information sharing (Duffy et al., 2020) . Previously, the initial framework only offered a negotiated social exchange (orange dotted arrows and triangle) as an option, however through incorporating the findings of the systematic review, the new framework provides the additional option of using organizational engagement techniques and envy management strategies (grey circle, center of graphic) to help redirect counterproductive behavior into more constructive organizational activities. This additional option allows the employee to use various tools

Figure 3. Final conceptual social exchange theory. Note: Adapted from “Impact of Control and Trust on Megaproject Success: The Mediating Role of Social Exchange Norms. Advances in Civil Engineering,” by D. Wang, S. Fang, and H. Fu, 2019, Advances in Civil Engineering, p. 6 ( Copyright 2019 by Wang et al.

to build trust with the team and organization and eventually choose to participate in the office’s social norms and information exchange without urging from organizational leadership.

7. Discussion

The purpose of this study was to explore different management strategies that organizations could use to mitigate the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication and employee information sharing. Specifically, the aim of the research was to synthesize available studies and respond to the question: How does workplace envy affect team communication and information sharing in organizations? The common challenge discussed throughout the research collected for this systematic review was social comparison. While the author acknowledges that there are many organizational factors that contribute to workplace envy, the overemphasizing of social comparison seems to be the biggest challenge. Therefore, to effectively mitigate the negative influence of workplace envy on employee communication and information sharing, organizations must find management approaches to reduce social comparison, the chief antecedent of workplace envy.

To address the negative influence of workplace envy on office communication and information sharing, the first finding suggests incorporating changes to internal policies and procedures that would suppress social comparison and reduce competitiveness among employees (Tussing et al., 2022; Wu et al., 2021) . Highlighting techniques such as supervisory guidance and team-building activities that encourage office engagement, the first finding focuses on creating a harmonious work culture that supports positive social exchanges, teamwork, and information sharing. However, when addressing malicious workplace envy and the counterproductive behaviors that accompany it, organizations must take extra steps to neutralize the negative emotions and actions that interfere with organizational performance (Taj et al., 2020; González-Navarro et al., 2018) . Simply put, having supervisors encourage group performance or create simulated bonding moments through forced team-building exercises will not create the healthy work environment needed to yield minimum occurrences of malicious envy or negative employee interactions. Therefore, organizations must integrate strategic tactics such as incorporating interdependent tasks or goals into employees work plans, which will create a need for employee collaboration and generate opportunities for information sharing.

The second finding emphasizes using envy management strategies to reduce counterproductive work behaviors that interfere with team communication and information sharing. Like the first finding, the research again points to social comparison as a significant source of malicious workplace envy (Erdil & Müceldili, 2014) . Srivastava et al. (2022) noted that unnecessary social comparisons lead to employees reacting negatively and exhibiting uncivil behavior towards their peers. Specifically, when organizations overemphasize employee acknowledgements such as awards, promotions, and bonuses, it caused unnecessary social comparison, which can lead to malicious workplace envy (Khan et al., 2009) . Therefore, the research suggests that organizations be discrete about reward allocations to avoid creating a competitive work culture, which may result in co-workers’ withdrawing their alliance and acting hatefully towards successful employees as an emotional and behavioral reaction (Duffy et al., 2020; Srivastava et al., 2022) . Duffy et al. (2020) noted that organizations could also minimize comparison through encouraging job rotations and increasing resources and rewards to compete for.

Additionally, the research suggests that organizations try to channel envious employees’ attention away from their peers’ accomplishments and help them focus on personal development (Yu et al., 2018) . Particularly, managers could work with envious employees and offer them opportunities for self-improvement to help reduce the insecurities associated with workplace envy. Fundamentally, while organizations can not completely extricate all workplace envy, it is possible to harness its positive attributes to improve organizational performance.

7.1. Recommendations for Management

To mitigate the effects of workplace envy on organizational communication and information sharing, the author of this study recommends the following:

1) Organizations must create a culture of engagement that encourages employees to participate in social exchange and team collaboration (Xu et al., 2021) . To accomplish this, managers and supervisors must create interdependent goals and tasks that require employees to work together for success. Using this technique will allow envious employees to recognize their co-workers’ success as their success.

2) Organizations should establish a system for rewards and penalties that avoids overemphasizing comparisons of employees’ performance (Wu et al., 2021) . This can be accomplished by maintaining confidentiality about performance awards, salary raises, and bonuses to reduce the feeling of envy among employees.

3) Finally, organizations must channel envious employees’ attention away from their peers’ achievements and focus on their own personal and professional development (Yu et al., 2018) . This can be achieved by providing development opportunities for employees that underperform, such as job rotations and training, as opposed to traditional avenues of discipline. This will help the envious employee reach their professional development goals and give them the perception of support and access to resources.

7.2. Recommendations for Future Study

There are three suggested areas for potential future research. First, due to the nature of the management question, future research could involve looking at the management problem through different theoretical lenses, such as organizational learning, theory of planned behavior, or theory of reasoned action. Reviewing the management problem through different theoretical lenses could produce different solutions. The author also suggests that further research should include a broader review of how envy can affect organizational performance. For this systematic review, the study focused on the negative effects of workplace envy on information sharing, however, future research should include discussion on how envy can affect team dynamics or employee performance. Finally, while this study focused on envious employees in general, more research is needed on downward envy and how it affects working relationships and organizational performance.

8. Limitations

There were also limitations to the systematic review process. Due to the short period of time given to complete this systematic review, there were limitations on the amount of data and resources that were used to assess the management problem. Due to these limitations, relevant information pertaining to the management problem may have been missed.

9. Conclusion

This systematic review started by exploring different management strategies that organizations could use to mitigate the negative impact of workplace envy on organizational communication and employee information sharing. Through a systematic review of several research articles, 13 peer-reviewed studies were selected to contribute to the research question, due to their emphasis on workplace envy, communication, and information sharing. Specifically, the selected articles provided guidance on how to reduce the negative effect of workplace envy on organizational communication and information sharing.


The completion of this study could not have been possible without the expertise and support of my professor, Dr. Denise Breckon. I would also like to thank my cohort members, David Dopico and AJ Nwoga, for their support and taking the time to provide feedback. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family, Ernest Wilkes, Deborah Spear, David Spear, and friends for their continued encouragement and understanding, without you none of this would be possible.

Appendix A

Table A1. Data extraction chart.

Appendix B: Sample TAPUPAS Scoring Sheet

Note: Each question within the framework is rated using a scale that ranges from 0 - 2; with 2 equaling very good or exceeds the criterion, 1 equaling good or meets the criterion, and 0 equaling not good or the criterion is missing. When rating each standard, to receive a rating of 2, evidence of the standard must not only appear in the research, but it must be clear and unquestionable. A rating of 1 for any standard, means that the evidence was present in the article, but was weak or questionable. A rating of 0 means that the article did not exhibit any evidence of that standard.

Appendix C

Table A2. TAPUPAS scores by study.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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