Theses Doctoral

Social comparison in performance appraisal

Chun, Jinseok S.

This dissertation examines to what extent social comparison is emphasized in performance evaluations of work organizations, how employees react to it, and whether there is an alternative to it. Operationalizing social comparison as an evaluation process that compares an employee’s performance to their coworkers’ performance, Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that social comparison is emphasized to a stronger extent in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures. Studies 3 and 4 find that employees in collectivistic cultures perceive higher procedural fairness when they receive social comparison evaluations as compared to employees in individualistic cultures. The mediation analyses from Studies 2 and 4 indicate that these findings are explained by the perceived descriptive and injunctive norms of social comparisons within collectivistic versus individualistic cultures, which shape people’s general attitudes toward using social comparison in evaluation settings. In collectivistic cultures that put strong emphasis on people’s social context, social comparison is considered to be a necessary component of performance evaluations. In contrast, in individualistic cultures where people focus on the specific characteristics of each person, social comparison is believed to be more or less irrelevant.
Given the aversive effect of social comparison in individualistic cultures, the second chapter of this dissertation investigates whether there is a proper alternative to social comparison in the context of performance evaluations. It finds that temporal comparison—which compares an employee’s performance to his or her own past performance—can be such an alternative. Temporal comparison secures employees’ perceptions of fairness by providing the beliefs that their evaluators are focusing on them and their specific characteristics. These findings imply that employees in individualistic cultures want their independent identities to be acknowledged at work, and providing temporal comparison evaluations is one way to fulfill such needs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Brockner, Joel
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2018