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Social Comparisons and Deception Across Workplace Hierarchies: Field and Experimental Evidence

Organization Science (Forthcoming)

49 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2009 Last revised: 7 Aug 2015

Benjamin G. Edelman

Harvard University - HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

Ian Larkin

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: August 22, 2014

Abstract

We examine how unfavorable social comparisons differentially spur employees of varying hierarchical levels to engage in deception. Drawing on literatures in social psychology and workplace self-esteem, we theorize that negative comparisons with peers could cause either junior or senior employees to seek to improve reported relative performance measures via deception. In a first study, we use deceptive self-downloads on SSRN, the leading working paper repository in the social sciences, to show that employees higher in a hierarchy are more likely to engage in deception, particularly when the employee has enjoyed a high level of past success. In a second study, we confirm this finding in two scenario-based experiments. Our results suggest that longer-tenured and more successful employees face a greater loss of self-esteem from negative social comparisons, and are more likely engage in deception in response to reported performance that is lower than that of peers.

Suggested Citation

Edelman, Benjamin G. and Larkin, Ian, Social Comparisons and Deception Across Workplace Hierarchies: Field and Experimental Evidence (August 22, 2014). Organization Science (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1346397 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1346397

Benjamin G. Edelman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.hbs.edu/bedelman

Ian Larkin

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

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