Quitting When the Going Gets Tough: A Downside of High Performance Expectations
Dai, H., Dietvorst, B., Tuckfield, B., Milkman, K.L., & Schweitzer, M.E. Quitting when the going is tough: The downside of high performance expectations. Academy of Management Journal, Forthcoming
86 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 18, 2017
High performance expectations often improve performance. When individuals with high external performance expectations encounter early setbacks, however, they face impression management concerns and the prospect of embarrassment. As a result, when the going gets tough, individuals facing high external expectations may be less likely to persist than people facing low external expectations. In a field study of 328,515 men’s professional tennis matches (Study 1), we employ a regression discontinuity design to demonstrate that after losing the first set of a match, players who are expected to win (favorites) are significantly more likely to quit than players who are expected to lose (underdogs). We replicate this pattern of results in a laboratory experiment (Study 2) and provide evidence for our proposed mechanism: compared to individuals facing low external expectations, those facing high expectations are more easily embarrassed by poor performance and consequently less persistent following early setbacks.
Keywords: Performance Expectations, Persistence, Quitting, Impression Management, Embarrassment
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