A functional model of workplace envy and job performance: When do employees capitalize on envy by learning from envied targets?

Kiyoung Lee, Michelle K. Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


We integrate the social functional view of emotions with recent developments in workplace envy research to develop and test a novel theoretical framework showing that envious employees can use their envy to promote self-enhancing actions rather than other-diminishing behaviors. We theorize that enviers’ core self-evaluations and friendship ties will attenuate the extent to which enviers undermine envied targets and promote the extent to which enviers actively learn from their envied targets through observational learning and advice seeking. Using two data sets from round-robin surveys of employees in the cosmetic (Study 1) and the financial (Study 2) industries, we show that, while enviers undermine envied targets, they also capitalize on their envy by seeking advice from the envied targets, and enviers who have higher core self-evaluations and friendship with the envied targets are more likely to seek advice from those targets; higher core self-evaluation also decreases the likelihood of undermining the envied targets. We found limited support for the role of envy in triggering enviers’ observational learning. Furthermore, enviers who learn from envied targets perform better and advice seeking is more influential for enviers’ performance than observational learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1110
Number of pages26
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the constructive guidance of the associate editor, Jessica Rodell, and three anonymous reviewers. We would like to thank Dan Brass, Brian Dineen, Lance Ferris, Theresa Glomb, Sophie Leroy, John Kammeyer-Mueller, John Schaubroeck, Aaron Schmidt, Richard Smith, Ben Tepper, Kathleen Vohs, and Le (Betty) Zhou for their helpful feedback, and Jacquelyn Thompson for her editorial assistance. This study was supported by a Small Research Grant from the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a Juran Fellowship in Quality, and a Carlson School Dean’s Small Research Grant. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2013 INFORMS Best Dissertation Proposal Competition and at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Philadelphia, PA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Academy of Management. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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