Fostering Teamwork Decreases Workplace Problems Credit: Dreamstime.com

New research finds that efforts by managers to keep their team working together will often translate into a healthier bottom line.

Workplace sabotage, which is fueled by envy and disengagement, can be avoided by keeping team members connected and engaged, according to research conducted by professors at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

"We often hear that people who feel envious of their colleagues try to bring them down by spreading negative rumors, withholding useful information, or secretly sabotaging their work," said UBC Sauder School of Business Professor Karl Aquino, who co-authored the report.

Aquino said envy between employees is the fuel for workplace sabotage and can be curbed by putting a focus on employee teamwork .

"The match is not struck unless employees experience what psychologists call 'moral disengagement'— a way of thinking that allows people to rationalize or justify harming others," he said.

The researchers explain that moral disengagement is most likely to occur when an envious co-worker feels disconnected from others in the workplace. The researchers found that people experiencing feelings of envy were significantly more likely to report committing sabotage when experiencing weak relationships with co-workers. Conversely, envious participants reported low sabotage rates when they felt they were more strongly connected to their work mates.

"The working world typically necessitates that people develop strong connections with co-workers in order to thrive," said the study's lead author, Professor Michelle Duffy of the University of Minnesota. "To stray from this path ultimately puts success at risk, so most suffer from envy in silence. However, from our research it seems that when someone sees themselves as a lone wolf, they are less inhibited and more likely to lash out."

The research will appear in the Academy of Management Journal.

Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via email at jmulvey@techmedianetwork.com.