Effects of Employees' Social Comparison Behaviors on Distributive Justice Perception and Job Satisfaction

By Shin, Jiseon; Sohn, Young Woo | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, August 2015 | Go to article overview

Effects of Employees' Social Comparison Behaviors on Distributive Justice Perception and Job Satisfaction


Shin, Jiseon, Sohn, Young Woo, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


When people seek out external referents to evaluate their opinions or abilities because they feel that object information or standards are insufficient to reduce self-uncertainty, this is referred to as social comparison (Festinger, 1954). Likewise, many people in organizations habitually engage in social comparisons in order to obtain and process information in an efficient way and make sense of situations (Dunn, Ruedy, & Schweitzer, 2012). Although social comparison phenomena are ubiquitous (Suls & Wheeler, 2012), research on the factors that influence social comparison at work and its outcomes is relatively scarce. Few scholars have explored employees' social comparison behaviors in organizations as an important form of social influence (e.g., Brown, Ferris, Heller, & Keeping, 2007; Chaudhry & Song, 2014).

In this study, our aim was to extend the extant social comparison literature. First, unlike previous studies, in which researchers examined either social comparisons generally or social comparisons in the context of the workplace without bridging those two areas (e.g., Chaudhry & Song, 2014; Khan, Quratulain, & Bell, 2014), we empirically examined extensive and various dimensions of social comparison.

Second, we investigated the interactional effects of frequency and direction of social comparison on work outcomes. Some people are more interested than others are in comparative information and, thus, typically engage more frequently in social comparisons (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999). It has been widely documented that social comparison occurs in two different directions, comprising up-ward comparison, that is, comparing oneself with those who are better off, and downward comparison, that is, comparing oneself with those who are worse off. Although the focus in most prior empirical studies has been on either comparison orientation or comparison direction (e.g., Buunk, Carmona, Peiro, Dijkstra, & Dijkstra, 2011; Litt, Stock, & Gibbons, 2014), it is important to investigate how these two factors can be used in combination to predict outcome variables.

Third, in relation to the transmission of the effects of social comparison on job satisfaction, we examined the role of distributive justice perception, which is defined as employees' belief about the extent to which the outcomes they receive from the organization reflect their contributions to the organization (Leventhal, 1976). Although some prior researchers have examined how employees' social comparison behaviors are associated with their work attitudes (e.g., Brown et al., 2007; Eddleston, 2009), to the best of our knowledge, none have examined the mechanism of this association.

Hypotheses Development

Antecedents of Social Comparison

People are likely to engage in social comparison when motivated to obtain an accurate and objective evaluation about the self and to enhance their self-image. Therefore, those who believe they understand themselves well and who have a positive self-concept tend to be less interested in comparative information (Dunn et al., 2012). Building on these findings, we hypothesized that employees who have an unfavorable core self-evaluation (CSE)--defined as an individual's basic assessment about his or her value, competence, and abilities (Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997)--will be more inclined to engage in social comparisons than will those who are confident and certain about themselves. Empirical support for this hypothesis is evident in findings by prior scholars that employees with an unfavorable CSE tend to engage more frequently in social comparisons in work-related domains (Brown et al., 2007). Therefore, similarly, we argued that employees with an unfavorable CSE would more frequently compare themselves with others in regard to various social dimensions.

As already described, in this study, our approach was to examine social comparison in two different areas, that is, work-related social comparison (WRSC) and work-unrelated social comparison (WUSC). …

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