Date of Degree

9-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Kristin Sommer

Committee Members

Yochi Cohen-Charash

Zhiqing (Albert) Zhou

Wei Wang

Robert Laud

Subject Categories

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Keywords

Social Comparison, Knowledge Sharing, Knowledge Hiding, Envy, Inspiration

Abstract

The present research investigated when and why employees might share or hide their work information from coworkers who perform better than themselves. Drawing from social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954) and social exchange theory (Blau, 1964), I predicted that upward social comparison would lead to both pleasant reactions (inspiration, perceived gain of work resources) and unpleasant reactions (envy, perceived loss of work resources), which in turn would differentially affect knowledge sharing/hiding behaviors targeting high-performing coworkers. I further predicted that individual differences in directing behaviors toward goals (goal orientation) and task structures requiring reliance on coworkers (task interdependence) would moderate the relationships between upward social comparison and knowledge sharing/hiding behaviors.

Two studies were conducted to test these ideas. In Study 1, full-time knowledge workers reflected on their coworkers who performed higher than or similar to themselves at work and recalled their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors toward the coworkers. In Study 2, undergraduate students were paired up with high- or average-performing students and performed a business simulation that required high or low interdependence with the experiment partners.

Across two studies, I found a significant indirect effect of a coworker’s performance on knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding via envy. In other words, participants shared less and withheld more knowledge from high-performing coworkers than from average-performing coworkers due to feelings of envy. Goal orientation and task interdependence did not moderate such links. The current research not only advances the existing social comparison literature but also the knowledge management literature by integrating emotion into knowledge exchange behaviors.

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