Referents or Role Models? The Self-Efficacy and Job Performance Effects of Perceiving Higher Performing Peers

Patrick E. Downes, Eean R. Crawford, Scott E. Seibert, Adam C. Stoverink, Elizabeth M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

What are the effects of perceiving peers' higher performance? Social- cognitive theory emphasizes the positive influence that perceiving higher performers can have on observer task and job performance (because observational learning from role models enhances self-efficacy). Social comparison theory emphasizes the negative self-evaluations that accompany perceiving higher performers, which should under many circumstances reduce self-efficacy and subsequent task and job performance. To more fully understand the effects of perceiving higher performance, we argue the effects of perceived higher performers on observer task and job performance depend on individuals' disposition in how they cognitively process coworkers' performance. Drawing on goal orientation theory, we suggest individuals with higher levels of performance prove goal orientation (PPGO) primarily interpret perceived higher performers as comparative referents rather than as instructive role models, inhibiting social learning and reducing self-efficacy. Results from a 2 studies (a field study of 110 corporate employees as well as an experimental study with 107 undergraduate students) support these ideas: Individuals with higher levels of PPGO have decreased self-efficacy and performance when observing higher performing coworkers, and individuals with lower levels of PPGO have increased self-efficacy and performance when observing higher performing coworkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Goal orientation
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social comparison theory
  • Social- cognitive theory

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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