Exploring What Happens When What Gets Measured Gets Socially Compared


Speaker:Emma Pugh, University of Bristol
Date: Wednesday 16 January 2019
Time: 14:30 - 16:00
Location: Kolade Teaching Room, Building One

Further details

We leverage social comparison theory and affective events theory as a macrostructure for understanding how the discrete emotions associated with making various social comparisons influence behavioral responses. Drawing on a qualitative case study of a multinational retail organization, we find that the self-focused emotions experienced by highly- and lowly-ranked store managers engaging in selected directional comparisons elicit affect-driven and judgment-driven short-termist behavior, particularly if the comparison produces a displacement of judgment away from the comparator. However, these emotion-behavior relations are confounded by a store manager’s perceived control over the comparison dimension. Only intermediately-ranked managers making selected upward comparisons for self-improvement purposes experience self-focused emotions which are less likely to elicit short-termist behavior. Our study advances accounting research on the motivational effects of relative performance information by revealing that social comparisons manifest themselves in ways that are broader in scope and more highly nuanced than has been recognized to date.