Communicative responses to malicious envy at work

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Date

2006

Authors

Malone, Patty Callish

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Abstract

Envy is a ubiquitous emotion in the workplace and frequently harmful. Previous research into malicious envy in the workplace consists of theoretical discussions but minimal empirical studies. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine malicious envy in the workplace: causes of malicious envy, communicative responses to malicious envy, and the factors that influence choices of communicative responses to feelings of envy in the workplace. This dissertation consists of two studies that use both qualitative and quantitative methods. The first study used inductive analysis to generate categories for causes of malicious envy in the workplace and responses to malicious envy in the workplace. 271 participants from a broad spectrum of organizations responded to the survey for Study One. The second study developed scale items generated from the inductive analysis in Study One for causes and responses. Factor analysis was used to examine underlying dimensions for causes and responses. Correlations were computed to determine associations between causes and responses and between several other variables (injustice, competitive organizational environment, organization based self-esteem, and hostility) and responses. A scale was also developed to measure degree of malicious envy. 429 participants from a wide variety of organizations responded to the survey for Study Two. Factors for causes of malicious envy included unfair, deserved, favorites, reward, misled, credit, and inadequate. Factors for responses to malicious envy included reassurance, negative emotion, commiserate, ignored, notice me, talk to boss, anger at job, negative other, and harassed. There were also numerous associations between causes and responses. Factors that affect communicative responses to malicious envy in the workplace include perceived causes, strength of malicious envy, a sense of injustice, a competitive organizational environment, organizational based self-esteem, and a sense of hostility. One surprising result indicated employees were more likely to respond in constructive ways before responding in destructive ways. This dissertation contributes to the literature by focusing on malicious envy in the workplace versus general envy, developing a new scale measuring degree of malicious envy, exploring causes of malicious envy and communicative responses to malicious envy, and examining the factors that affect communicative responses to malicious envy.

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