Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Recognising and Managing Envy through Organisational Counselling

Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Recognising and Managing Envy through Organisational Counselling

Article excerpt


In this paper I will begin by explaining a summary of the definitions given by people surveyed during counselling and I will compare their opinions with some psychoanalytic definitions. I will then illustrate some cases of organisational and workplace counselling from my experience as a counsellor. During these experiences I have observed various forms of envy and I will describe their connections with the theoretical topic and how I tried to deal with them in terms of organisational and counselling behaviour.


Practical observations

Anyone involved in clinical psychology encounters the theme of envy, a topic that has been clearly identified and examined- as we shall see-in psychoanalysis. In any case, it is interesting to observe the strong and spontaneous perception of envy, or rather how strongly and spontaneously envy is perceived in social life. Based on this observation, I decided to combine the theoretical theme of envy within the life of organisations through practical observations made during counselling done with people working in different organisations. During a counselling session, a series of structured questions focused on envy were posed. The questions were addressed to four people, two coming from private companies and two from public institutions, with leadership and/or professional roles.

The common perceptions of envy that emerged from the interviewees were focused on some key issues, some of which are relatively homogeneous among all respondents, while others belong mainly to those who come from public organisations. The main observations were:

1. Envy is an unavoidable feeling for human beings and it is always present in relationships with others. "Pretending not to be envious" is considered an attitude of falsehood or hypocrisy. It is better to admit the feeling of envy and to avoid being "overwhelmed by it". Many people who do not undertake this act of "humility" consider envy as something that only affects others and "they end by feeling tormented thereby worsening their situation".

2. All interviewees say that is not easy to define envy; "you know that it exists . . . but no one knows exactly what it is". Envy is definitely seen as connected to something aggressive; the desire to steal or destroy the goods of others. Somehow it is linked to jealousy and to the desire to get everything for themselves. The basic idea that emerges, however, is that envy is something that pushes you to compare yourself to others without appreciating their qualities but rather preferring to diminish them.

3. An object of envy is also, in particular, something that you do not or cannot possess. The object may be the qualities of others, for example, a person may envy the creative talent of another (such as Salieri with Mozart).

4. Envy raises doubts about one's authenticity because envy towards someone who has pursued different life choices (such as a person of power who envies an autocratic self-supporting person who is relatively free of constraints), may raise doubts about one's own past choices. Envy becomes a detector of satisfaction and authenticity; it increases in relation to the lack of ability to confidently pursue the achievement of a goal.

The relatively different opinions emerging among the interviewees were as follows:

1. People who occupy positions in public institutions believe that envy is a feature set in motion by the institution itself through a lack of attention to individuality and an unwillingness to allow discretionary decisions; this behaviour creates the image of an all-powerful and self-centred bureaucratic organisation in which the employees can only obey and complain enviously.

2. Envy regarding competition for power is predominant in business organisations. An open-minded leader transforms the envy from the others into admiration, while some unscrupulous leaders create envy towards themselves and towards others to create a climate of tension and to become the arbiters of the situation. …

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