Envy and Interpersonal Corruption: Social Comparison Processes and Unethical Behavior in Organizations

43 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2015

See all articles by Julia Lee

Julia Lee

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Francesca Gino

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Date Written: June 11, 2015

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Institutional corruption, unethical behavior, cheating, envy, social comparison, interpersonal corruption

Suggested Citation

Lee, Julia and Gino, Francesca, Envy and Interpersonal Corruption: Social Comparison Processes and Unethical Behavior in Organizations (June 11, 2015). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 67. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2617013 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2617013

Julia Lee (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-647-4606 (Phone)

Francesca Gino

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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