A new University of British Columbia study says envious employees are more likely to undermine their co-workers if they feel disconnected at work.
"We often hear that people who feel envious of their colleagues try to bring them down by spreading negative rumours, withholding useful information, or secretly sabotaging their work," says Prof. [Karl] Aquino, who conducted the study with colleagues from the University of Minnesota, Clemson University in South Carolina and Georgia State University.
However, Aquino says envy is only the fuel for sabotage. "The match is not struck unless employees experience what psychologists call 'moral disengagement' – a way of thinking that allows people to rationalize or justify harming others."
In other words, you somehow deserve all the backbiting, not to mention the typos this co-worker intentionally added to your report. Or maybe this employee is stealing other employees' lunches. The sabotage doesn't have to be entirely work-related.
So what can be done about it? Don't let employees suffer in silence and don't let them feel like lone wolves, the researchers suggest. Apply some team building and employee engagement strategies, too. Managers need to nip this passive-aggressive behavior in the bud. Besides, employees will be grumpy all afternoon if they didn't get to eat their lunch.