DOI: 10.1002/job.2745 ISSN:

How, when, and why high job performance is not always good: A three‐way interaction model

Yan Peng, Bao Cheng, Jian Tian, Zhenduo Zhang, Xing Zhou, Kun Zhou
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • General Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


Despite organizations encouraging employees to improve their job performance to enhance organizational performance, the understanding of the consequences of high performance from the perspective of social comparison remains limited. Drawing on social comparison theory, we develop a framework explaining how upward performance social comparison leads to political behaviors through anxiety. Furthermore, we examine the amplifying effect of social comparison orientation (SCO) on the relationship between upward performance social comparison and anxiety. We introduce the downward leader–member exchange social comparison (downward leader–member exchange social comparison [LMXSC]) to buffer the magnifying effect of SCO. We test the three‐way interaction among upward performance social comparison, SCO, and downward LMXSC using the data collected from a three‐wave survey (Study 1) and a scenario‐based experiment (Study 2), and our hypotheses are supported. Our results reveal an interesting dilemma. Employees' high performance is naturally beneficial for organizations, but those with high SCO and fewer advantages in leader–member exchange social comparison may feel more anxious and engage in political behaviors in response to upward performance social comparison. Our research has practical implications, such as monitoring social comparisons and political behaviors in the workplace and helping employees reduce anxiety.

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