Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Envy at Work and in Organizations


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



Business | Marketing


This chapter seeks to examine the development and consequences of envy using a social networks perspective. The social network perspective considers that individuals are embedded in a web of relationships which significantly influence individual behavior (Borgatti, Mehra, Brass, & Labianca, 2009). Much of the activity that takes place inside an organization occurs within a structure of informal relationships. These relationships, although informal, often represent key communication-based interactions that allow employees to do their jobs. People often compare their levels of performance and awards attained to those of their coworkers. They gather this social comparison information through direct inquiry and third-party gossip. We argue that the content and structure of informal relationships will affect people’s access to and interpretation of social comparison information. We examine dyadic implications of social networks on the development and consequences of envy, such as the bonds that exist between potential enviers and the targets of their envy, the type and strength of the relationships and the frequency of interaction between the dyads. We also explore implications beyond the dyad - which can only be understood by considering the overall network structure in which employees are embedded - such as how the overall network structure creates a context within which interactions take place, how the relative positions of a potential envier and the target of envy within the network structure and their respective individual network characteristics impact the likelihood of comparison and the development of envy, and how the cognitions that employees have about workplace networks affect social comparison and the development of envy. Our goal is to open up a discussion about how social networks within organizations influence 1) social comparison processes, 2) the development of envy and the form it takes, and 3) the consequences of envy, with a specific focus on the behavior of the envier. Our hope is to inspire both envy researchers and social networks researchers to consider conducting empirical research at the intersection of social networks and envy, with the goal of improving our understanding of both.


© 2017 Oxford University Press

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