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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  

Hengchen Dai

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

Berkeley J. Dietvorst

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Bradford Tuckfield

Independent

Katherine L. Milkman

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Maurice E. Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Date Written: August 18, 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Dai, Hengchen and Dietvorst, Berkeley J. and Tuckfield, Bradford and Milkman, Katherine L. and Schweitzer, Maurice E., Quitting When the Going Gets Tough: A Downside of High Performance Expectations (August 18, 2017). 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. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3022656

Hengchen Dai (Contact Author)

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

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

Berkeley Dietvorst

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Bradford Tuckfield

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Katherine Milkman

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Maurice Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-4776 (Phone)
215-898-3664 (Fax)

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