Hot shots and cool reception? An expanded view of social consequences for high performers

J Appl Psychol. 2017 May;102(5):845-866. doi: 10.1037/apl0000183. Epub 2017 Feb 13.


While high performers contribute substantially to their workgroups and organizations, research has indicated that they incur social costs from peers. Drawing from theories of social comparison and conservation of resources, we advance a rational perspective to explain why high performers draw both intentional positive and negative reactions from peers and consider how cooperative work contexts moderate these effects. A multisource field study of 936 relationships among 350 stylists within 105 salons offered support for our model and an experiment with 204 management students constructively replicated our findings and ruled out alternative explanations. Results indicated that peers offered more support and also perpetrated more undermining to high performers. Paradoxical cognitive processes partly explain these behaviors, and cooperative contexts proved socially disadvantageous for high performers. Findings offer a more comprehensive view of the social consequences of high performance and highlight how peer behaviors toward high performers may be calculated and strategic rather than simply reactionary. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult