University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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They Want What I’ve Got (I think): The Causes and Consequences of Attributing Coworker Behavior to Envy

Author(s): Harshad Puranik, Heather Vough, Daniel Gamache

Status: Accepted
Year: 2017
Publication Name: Academy of Management Review


Abstract

Research on envy has recently shifted its focus to include not only the envious person but also the person who is a target of that envy. We join the conversation in this nascent, but developing, literature by addressing a critical question: Given that envy is a covert emotion, how do employees come to perceive that they are envied? The answer, we propose, is that when employees are faced with ambiguous coworker behavior they will make an envy attribution for that behavior, under certain circumstances. We position envy attributions as a type of a relational attribution and elaborate a model grounded in theory on self-regulation that explains both how and when employees come to attribute the behaviors of their coworkers to envy. Going further, we then draw from research on approach-avoidance to explain the subsequent behavior of an employee who has attributed coworker behaviors to envy. In so doing, we not only provide an explanation for conflicting findings in the extant ‘being envied’ literature, but also call for an increased focus on attributions as intervening mechanisms that explain people’s response to others’ emotions.


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