Jealousy and Bad Decisions

Choices© 2015 Tony Bodoh and Vinny Ribas

Volkswagen was recently exposed for installing a “defeat device” in 11 million diesel cars that would detect when the cars were being tested for emissions. The device temporarily reduced the emissions so that the car would pass the tests. Once the test was over, the car would return to its normal state, expelling up to 40 times the legal limits of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

The backlash from around the world from this maneuver has been catastrophic. The CEO has resigned, stock prices dropped, car sales have almost stopped, lawsuits are threatened by both governments and the public, and it will take a decade to recover from the hit to the company’s reputation. The scandal will also undoubtedly wreak havoc on Germany’s economy, where Volkswagen was the largest employer. At the same time, the short and long-term damage to the environment around the globe is virtually immeasurable.

All of this stemmed from one bad decision. We may never know whose decision it ultimately was. But that one decision has shifted the world’s economic and environmental stability!

What could be so compelling as to cause a person or a company to make such a bad and careless decision? We believe it boils down to one word – jealousy. Whether it was a top Volkswagen executive who was jealous of Toyota being the leading carmaker in the world or it was a manager, engineer or scientist that created the defeat device because they wanted to get ahead in their career, jealousy played a role. Someone was willing to go to the point of doing anything to overtake Toyota regardless of whether or not is was ethical, moral, legal or destructive.

The bottom line is that good decisions require accurate thinking. When an emotion as powerful as jealousy is allowed to creep into the thought process, it can cloud anyone’s judgement and influence their actions. In fact, jealousy may actually be the leading cause of bad business decisions.

This is by no means just a problem for big businesses. Small business owners are not exempt from the temptations of acting out of jealousy. Vinny has coached thousands of musicians and know that many of them underbid a gig or offered to play for free just to keep another musician from getting it. He knows of one who went as far as to sabotage another musician’s equipment because he was jealous of the attention the other musician was getting. Tony knows of some business owners who give their competitors bad ratings on Trip Advisor, Yelp and other review sites. Service providers such as caterer’s, coaches etc. have often been known to find less-than-honorable ways to steal clients from their competitors.

It is important to note that there is a very distinct line between business competition and business jealousy. Healthy competition involves trying to out-do or surpass someone else by becoming better at what you do. This can include providing better service, developing a better product and ultimately upgrading your customer experiences, etc. It’s noble and brings greater value to everyone. To some extent it raises humanity to a higher quality of life. In other words, it is 100% constructive.

This type of competitiveness turns sour when jealousy is allowed to infiltrate the process. At that point it’s no longer about wanting to have the same success as another business or business owner. Instead it becomes about not wanting them to have any success at all. The drive becomes to tear down the other business through any means like Volkswagen attempted to do to Toyota. It leads to destructive rather than constructive behavior.

Why do we have a tendency to lean this way? It often occurs when we believe that another business owner does not deserve the success they have, perhaps because for some reason we believe they never had to work hard to achieve it. We also make jealousy-based bad decisions when we believe that we can’t compete on an even playing field with another business and therefore need ‘an edge’, as was the case with Volkswagen. It’s also often the fear of losing something we value that acts as the trigger.

It is critical to realize when you are either making or tempted to make decisions based on your jealousy of someone else. Only then can you switch gears and engage in constructive competition. This is accomplished by:

  • Focusing inwardly on what you absolutely can do and control
  • Increasing the value you create for others
  • Staying the course towards your own mission and vision
  • Putting a team in place to hold you accountable to your own morals, ethics and boundaries
  • Expecting and embracing the challenge of competition and not being defeated by it any time you fall short, but instead, using that experience as a catalyst for change and improvement.

If the only way you can win is by cheating, you run the risk of losing everything from your business and income to your good reputation, and possibly even your personal freedom.

Are you tired of working tirelessly and still not having the income you want to live the lifestyle you want? Are you struggling to attain a comfortable work-life balance? Are you too busy making money today to think about building for the future? Check out ‘The Brilliant Business Owner‘.


Tony Bodoh and Vinny Ribas are the co-founders of LeaderBridge and co-authors of the upcoming book, The Jealous Business Owner (with Connie Ribas). Tony is a Fortune 150 consultant and the founder of Tony Bodoh International and VenuPlan. He is also a sought after speaker, corporate trainer and the author of the upcoming book, ‘The Customer Within.’

Vinny is the author of CEO Secrets and has coached over 1000 entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of Top 4M Entertainment, a film and TV production company, and Indie Connect, a music industry management, consulting and training company.