Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 39 Issue 10 (October 2009), Pages 2275-2540

The Perils of Success in the Workplace: Comparison Target Responses to Coworkers' Upward Comparison Threat (pages 2438-2468)

This field study investigated the coping behaviors utilized by award‐winning real‐estate agents who, as a consequence of their outperformance, perceived that they were the targets of threatening upward comparisons by those they had outperformed. We hypothesized that outperformers' comparison target discomfort (i.e., discomfort associated with being a target of upward comparisons) would moderate the relationships between comparison threat experienced by those outperformed and outperformers' modest self‐presentation, avoidance behaviors, and socially motivated underachievement. Our results provide partial (and counterintuitive) support for our hypotheses, confirming that comparison target discomfort plays a complex role in determining outperformers' behavioral responses to being the target (real or imagined) of upward comparisons.

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