In the workplace, men and women deal with jealousy differently, a new study finds. The research suggests that sexual competition affects women more than men. But a rival's social skills provoke jealousy and professional envy equally in both sexes.

The research was done in Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina, so it’s not clear if it would describe workplace situations in other countries.

"Women with a high level of intrasexual competition are more jealous if the rival is more attractive and more envious if the rival is more powerful and dominating. They did not get any results in men, as no rival characteristics that provoke jealousy or envy predicted intrasexual competition," explained Rosario Zurriaga, a researcher at the University of Valencia and one of the authors of the study.

The findings were detailed in the journal Revista de Psicología Social.

Intrasexual rivalry is competition with other people of the same sex caused by the desire to obtain and keep access to the opposite sex. Zurriaga, together with researchers at the universities of Groningen (the Netherlands) and Palermo (Argentina) analysed this type of rivalry using questionnaires distributed directly to 200 subjects in their workstations.

From those, they finally chose 114 "a large enough sample as it is an exploratory study" the expert from the University of Valencia explained.

They distinguished between two emotions: jealousy and envy. Jealousy is a threat or loss of success in a relationship due to interference from a rival and implies a loss or threat of loss of what they had. Envy is a response to another person who has success, skills or qualities that they desire and involves a lack in comparison to the envied person.

According to their results, sexual competition generally causes more jealousy and envy in women. However, rivals' social skills provoke both emotions, both in men and women. "This result shows the importance of social skills in work environments" Zurriaga stated.

"Our research intends to clarify the role of emotions like envy and jealousy at work. These feelings have not been studied in working contexts and can cause stress in workers and negatively affect the quality of working life" the researcher added.

The main implication derived from this study is that in order to prevent the negative effects of these feelings, they should modify aspects such as the perception of threat, loss or comparison with others at work.

"This is one of the first studies that examines rivals' characteristics in this environment and contributes to a better understanding of conflicts and problems that can occur in working relationships" they concluded.

Some 26 percent of employees that participated worked in administration, 21percent in services sector, 30 pecent in education and the rest in health and other professions. The sample was half men and half women, with an average age of 36 years, and having spent 11 years in their current company.