When your strengths threatens me: Supervisors show less social comparison bias than subordinates

[Speaker] Jia, Huiyuan:1
[Co-author] Lu, Jingyi:2, Xie, Xiaofei:1, Huang, Tao:1
1:Peking University (China (People's Republic of China)), 2:East China Normal University (China (People's Republic of China))

Employee referral programs encourage employees to recommend outstanding candidates to their organizations. However, a superior candidate is a threat to a referee. People do not tend to recommend outperforming candidates who have the same strengths as themselves because these candidates are a threat to their self-positivity. Known as the social comparison bias (Garcia, Song, & Tesser, 2010), this tendency hinders the effectiveness of employee referral programs. We propose that supervisors (vs. subordinates) would show less social comparison bias. The results of three experiments and a field study showed that supervisors (vs. subordinates) presented less social comparison bias (Studies 1a, 1b, and 2). In addition, self-threat accounted for the difference between supervisors and subordinates (Study 2). Moreover, we verified that the difference in the willingness to provide a recommendation between supervisors and subordinates reflected social comparison bias, rather than complementarity concern (Study 3).
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