Research Design Connection: Envy at Work

Envy in workplaces can arise for many reasons, imagined or real (consider variations in desk chairs provided). Koopman, at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business, has found “a strong link between an employee’s feelings of envy after they perceive a supervisor has treated them worse relative to their co-workers and the length of time by which they process this information.”

A key concept discussed by Koopman is “epistemic motivation” (EM) – the desire to process information thoroughly and grasp the meaning behind a particular situation…people high in such motivation are more sensitive to nuance and devote more time to processing new information as it comes in…‘Research has shown that most creative working environments – ones that require a strong ability to negotiate and attend to detail – value employees who have a high level of epistemic motivation,’ says Koopman…‘The workers who are valuable for problem-solving, skilled negotiating and finding timely solutions are also the ones who ruminate longer over processing the social injustice and envy they feel,’ says Koopman. ‘This [during his study]…negatively affected their overall productivity.’” This research was presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

“That’s Not Fair! – – Managing Envy in the Workplace.” 2016. Press release, University of Cincinnati,

Sally Augustin, PhD, a cognitive scientist, is the editor of Research Design Connections (, a monthly subscription newsletter and free daily blog, where recent and classic research in the social, design, and physical sciences that can inform designers’ work are presented in straightforward language. Readers learn about the latest research findings immediately, before they’re available elsewhere. Sally, who is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, is also the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009) and, with Cindy Coleman, The Designer’s Guide to Doing Research: Applying Knowledge to Inform Design (Wiley, 2012). She is a principal at Design With Science ( and can be reached at