Envy and interpersonal corruption: Social comparison processes and unethical behavior in organizations
Lee, J. J. & Gino, F. (2016). Envy and interpersonal corruption: Social comparison processes and unethical behavior in organizations. In U. Merlone, M. Duffy, M. Perini & R. Smith (Eds.), Envy at Work and in Organizations: Research, Theory, and Applications, Oxford University Press.
Previous research on unethical behavior in organizations suggests that employees who engage in such behavior are motivated by the desire to advance their own self-interest, often acting selfishly at the expense of their own organizations. However, such behaviors also may be motivated by potential benefits or costs to other employees within the same organization. In this article, we provide a framework that shows how emotions resulting from upward social comparisons between one employee and others, namely envy, may motivate unethical behavior that is costly to coworkers. We discuss the consequences of such interpersonal unethical behavior in organizational settings. We also examine the interaction of these emotional reactions to social comparisons with characteristics of an organization’s structure, related to pay, goals, and monitoring. Finally, we discuss the implications for future theory development.