Mitigating malicious envy: Why successful individuals should reveal their failures.

People often feel malicious envy, a destructive interpersonal emotion, when they compare themselves to successful peers. Across 3 online experiments and a field experiment of entrepreneurs, we identify an interpersonal strategy that can mitigate feelings of malicious envy in observers: revealing one’s failures. Despite a general reluctance to reveal one’s failures–as they are happening and after they have occurred–across four experiments, we find that revealing both successes and failures encountered on the path to success (compared to revealing only successes) decreases observers’ malicious envy. This effect holds regardless of the discloser’s status and cannot be explained by a decrease in perceived status of the individual. Then, in a field experiment at an entrepreneurial pitch competition, where pride displays are common and stakes are high, we find suggestive evidence that learning about the failures of a successful entrepreneur decreases observers’ malicious envy while increasing their benign envy and decreasing their perceptions of the entrepreneur’s hubristic pride (i.e., arrogance) while increasing their perceptions of the entrepreneur’s authentic pride (i.e., confidence). These findings align with previous work on the social-functional relation of envy and pride. Taken together, our results highlight how revealing failures encountered on the way to success can be a counterintuitive yet effective interpersonal emotion regulation strategy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)