The two faces of envy: perceived opportunity to perform as a moderator of envy manifestation

Abdul Karim Khan, Chris M. Bell, Samina Quratulain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate, with a Pakistani sample, the destructive and constructive behavioral intentions associated with benign and malicious envy in the context of perceived opportunity to perform. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted two cross-sectional studies to test the hypotheses. In Study 1, data were obtained from students (n=90), whereas in Study 2, the authors used an executive sample (n=83). Findings: The primary motivation of benign envy was to bring oneself up by improving performance on the comparison dimension, whereas the primary motive of malicious envy was to pull the envied other down. The relationship between malicious envy and behavioral “pulling down” intentions of derogating envied other was conditional on perceived opportunity on the comparison dimension. Consistent with a motive to improve self-evaluation, this study also found that perceived opportunity to perform interacted with benign envy to promote performance intentions on an alternative dimension. Furthermore, malicious envy was also associated with self-improving performance intentions on the comparison dimension, conditional upon perceived opportunity to perform. Practical implications: Envy, depending on its nature, can become a positive or negative force in organizational life. The pattern of effects for opportunity structure differs from previous findings on control. The negative and positive effects of malicious envy may be managed by attention to opportunity structures. Originality/value: This study supports the proposition that benign envy and malicious envy are linguistically and conceptually distinct phenomena, and it is the first to do so in a sample from Pakistan, a non-western and relatively more collectivistic culture. The authors also showed that negative and hostile envy-based behaviors are conditional upon the perceived characteristics of the context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-511
Number of pages22
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotions
  • Hierarchical regression
  • Individual behaviour
  • Quantitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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