The HBR article Envy at Work is an interesting insight into the human mind and the potential for destructive behaviour when inter-team competitiveness goes sideways. Personally, I have always been a proponent of sharing best practices whenever your team has one and saying thank-you as much as possible.
But, that is not always enough. The following quote really struck me, this goes deeper, right to human nature:
Although the German word schadenfreude – delighting in others’ misery – rapidly entered the English lexicon, the term mudita (from Pali,an ancient language of India), used by Buddhists to mean ‘rejoicing in the good fortune of others’, has not. It is the rare person whose automatic impulse is to feel glad when meeting someone smarter, prettier or richer.
An interesting point and a reminder that to build a great team, you have to watch for the warning signs. In the article they talk about one case where the employee left the company because he believed that his colleague was getting all of the credit for his hard work. The article focusing on how we, as individuals, can realize when we are feeling envious so that we can stop destructive behaviour.
One has to wonder, had he had a good manager who was watching for signs, could he have been coached out of the situation? Maybe he just needed coaching on how to represent the good things he was doing each day (so that he did not feel that someone else was taking credit) or on how to come to grips with the feelings of envy and resolve them? It was clear that he needed coaching on conflict resolution.
A great follow-up article should focus on how a good manager could have helped resolve it within a team. Personally, this article could be extrapolated well beyond work to the home life. How many children are encouraged to compete by parents? Leading to inter-family envy and dysfunction. I know that was the norm with young boys in families as I grew up, where there was always this competitiveness and I still see it today, parents encouraging their children to compete. Doesn’t that create envy and increase the propensity for dysfunction as the children compete for parental praise?
My wife has a philosophy of encouraging the boys to be competitive, but never against each other. Instead, encouraging them to support each other, help each other succeed and always seeking opportunity to raise each boy’s confidence up a level. I think it is brilliant, counter cultural and one of the reasons why our boys are the best of friends.