While doing a little Sunday morning reading this weekend past, I stumbled across an interesting study conducted by the University of British Columbia in 2011.
Their paper, A Social Context Model of Envy and Social Undermining, revealed the components necessary for sabotaging a coworker. Sabotage can include spreading rumors, withholding important information, or secretly sabotaging their work.
As the title of the paper suggests, one of the elements necessary for sabotage to occur is envy.
I’ve had to deal with envy first hand, when a lead carpenter was bitter toward a salesman. I had the guy that’s “doing all the work” and “breaking his back” resent the fact that the salesman would “just drive around all day in an air-conditioned car and make six figures.”
However, envy alone is not enough to get one employee to sabotage another (luckily for me). According to researchers, envy is only the fuel. To ignite the fire, the employee must feel “disconnected” from their coworkers.
In other words, they don’t feel like a part of the team.
Lead author, Prof. Michelle Duffy explains, “Our study shows that envy on its own is not necessarily a negative thing in the workplace. However, managers would be well advised to consider team-building strategies to ensure all of their employees are engaged in the group dynamic.”
So, you should be actively performing team-building activities. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Business coaches have been encouraging it for decades.
But it’s always been in the context of increasing productivity. This study raises the stakes. Because if your employees start trying to undermine each other, your quality, your profits and even your company itself can go down.
So keep them engaged! Make time for socializing! Keep everyone working well together! We don’t want anyone getting lost in the shuffle.
What about you?
Have you ever had to deal with sabotage? What about jealousy? How did you handle it? Do you have team-building exercises? What activities do you recommend? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!