Avoid the Green-eyed Monster

By on / Conflict Resolution

Adapted from “Negotiating with the Green-eyed Monster,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

Envy can cause us to engage in deception at the bargaining table. That’s the cautionary finding of research by Simone Moran of Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Maurice E. Schweitzer of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why might negotiators be more likely to lie to someone they envy? Pointing to research linking envy to schadenfreude, the phenomenon of taking pleasure in the suffering of others, Moran and Schweitzer suggest we may experience a psychological lift from harming those we envy–and justify poor treatment of those who “deserve to be taken down a notch.” Here are three ways to head off the deception that envy can inspire:

1. Brag with caution. When meeting new counterparts, it’s often desirable to tout your achievements–but beware the risk of triggering destructive envy. To head off a counterpart’s deception, work on building trust and rapport before getting down to business.

2. Audit your feelings. Your envy of a counterpart could cause you to justify behavior that you would normally avoid. If you’re tempted to lie to someone, consider whether irrational envy could be to blame.

3. Anticipate a backlash. Understanding that envy is a powerful motivator, many organizations pit their salespeople against one another for performance rewards. When setting up such competitions, factor in the possibility that envy toward winners could lead to later problems.

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One Response to “Avoid the Green-eyed Monster”

  • This is really great advice. The goal of negotiation should be to reach an outcome that is good for both parties. Allowing envy to influence the process leading to deception can cause irrational behavior, with neither party being able to ultimately obtain a desired outcome.

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