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The Pernicious Effects of Malicious versus Benign Envy: Perceived Injustice, Emotional Hostility and Counterproductive Behaviors in the Workplace

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2018

Ginés Navarro-Carrillo
Universidad de Granada (Spain)
Ana M. Beltrán-Morillas
Universidad de Granada (Spain)
Inmaculada Valor-Segura*
Universidad de Granada (Spain)
Francisca Expósito
Universidad de Granada (Spain)
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Inmaculada Valor-Segura. Universidad de Granada. Departamento de Psicología Social. Centro de Investigación Mente, Cerebro y Comportamiento (CIMCYC). 18071 Granada (Spain). Phone: +34–958249611. E-mail:


Despite the fact that literature regarding the implications of envy in the work environment has generated growing interest in recent years, the role of malicious and benign envy in the workplace has scarcely been studied. Therefore, the present study, using an experimental design, N = 213 (140 female and 73 male; Mage = 31.05, SD = 10.01; range from 18 to 68), aims to examine the effects of malicious (vs. benign) envy on perceived injustice, negative emotions, and the individual tendency to express counterproductive work behaviors. The results obtained showed that the mere activation of malicious envy (vs. benign envy) leads to an increased perceived injustice (p < .001, ηp2= .15), and to higher levels of negative emotions (p < .001, ηp2= .18) and counterproductive (harmful) behaviors toward the envied co-worker (p < .001, ηp2= .16). Additionally, we found that perceptions of injustice and negative emotions mediated the effect of malicious (vs. benign) envy on the inclination to express counterproductive work behaviors (Indirect Effect (IE) = .227, SE = .064, 95% CI [.127, .386]. Finally, these findings and their possible implications are discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2018 

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This study was made possible by the financing provided the projects “Macrosocial realities (economic crisis and social class) and social psychological processes: Trust, well-being, altruism and politics” (Ref. PSI-2017-83966-R) (MINECO/AEI/FEDER/UE) and "New forms of gender violence: Risk and protector factors for the psychological welfare” (Ref. PSI-2017- 84703-R) (MINECO/AEI/FEDER/UE).


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