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Antecedents and consequences of upward and downward social comparisons An investigation of Chinese employees
Sharon Foley1; Hang-yue Ngo2; Raymond Loi3
Source PublicationInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to extend and test a theory of uncertainty and directional social comparisons. Prior studies have posited that uncertainty leads to increased upward and downward social comparisons. The authors’ view is that uncertainty affects upward and downward comparisons differentially. They test their theory in the Chinese workplace, and focus specifically on employees’ comparisons of career progress. Workplace consequences of social comparisons are also investigated.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors achieve their objectives by collecting data from respondents in China that measure uncertainty, directional social comparisons, organizational commitment and job satisfaction. They use a longitudinal design to assess causality.

Findings – This paper found that perceived organizational support, an antecedent that lowers uncertainty in the workplace, is related to upward social comparison, whereas psychological entitlement, an uncertainty-raising antecedent, is related to downward social comparison. Upward social comparison positively affected organizational commitment, whereas downward social comparison positively impacted job satisfaction.

Research limitations/implications – The data collection relied on self-reports and hence the findings may be adversely affected by common method bias. Another limitation involves the generalizability of results, given that the respondents were drawn from three large firms in China.

Originality/value – This paper indicates that directional social comparison processes serve as an important mechanism for understanding how employees’ work attitudes are developed. It also demonstrates the applicability of social comparison theory to the study of organizational behavior in China.

KeywordChina Psychological Entitlement Upward Social Comparison Perceived Organizational Support Downward Social Comparison
WOS Research AreaBusiness & Economics
WOS SubjectManagement
WOS IDWOS:000389339500008
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
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Cited Times [WOS]:4   [WOS Record]     [Related Records in WOS]
Document TypeJournal article
CollectionFaculty of Business Administration
Corresponding AuthorSharon Foley
Affiliation1.Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
2.Department of Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
3.Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau, Taipa, Macau
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Sharon Foley,Hang-yue Ngo,Raymond Loi. Antecedents and consequences of upward and downward social comparisons An investigation of Chinese employees[J]. International Journal of Organizational Analysis,2016,24(1):145-161.
APA Sharon Foley,Hang-yue Ngo,&Raymond Loi.(2016).Antecedents and consequences of upward and downward social comparisons An investigation of Chinese employees.International Journal of Organizational Analysis,24(1),145-161.
MLA Sharon Foley,et al."Antecedents and consequences of upward and downward social comparisons An investigation of Chinese employees".International Journal of Organizational Analysis 24.1(2016):145-161.
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