Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Goffin, Richard D.


The purpose of the overall program of research was to investigate whether there are individual differences that facilitate the acceptance of, or preferences for, social-comparative performance feedback. In doing so, we aimed to establish how individual differences could be leveraged to mitigate the negative reactions that some individuals experience in response to social-comparative feedback (Feeney, Goffin, & Schneider, 2016; Roch et al., 2007). Likewise, we sought to determine whether individual differences were associated with a preference for social-comparative feedback. The results of the first study (N = 255) advanced a novel experimental design and found that, with limited exception, the individual differences examined in the study were not related to ratees’ reactions to and acceptance of social-comparative performance feedback. In our second study (N = 145) participants were presented with a vignette and indicated whether they would prefer to work for a company that used a social-comparative performance management system or a traditional absolute performance management system. The results of the study found that individuals who preferred a social-comparative performance management system were high on two narrow facets of Conscientiousness (i.e., Diligence, and Organization) prefer social-comparative performance ratings over traditional absolute performance ratings. The details and implications of these findings across both studies are discussed and we conclude that more research on this topic is needed.

Summary for Lay Audience

The purpose of this program of research was to study how aspects of human personality and individual differences might relate to people’s acceptance of, or preferences for, different types of feedback in the workplace, most notably, comparative feedback. Unlike traditional workplace feedback which typically involves evaluating employees against pre-determined standards, comparative feedback involves evaluating employees by comparing their performance to that of others. Comparative workplace feedback has, among other benefits, been found to be more accurate and less susceptible to score inflation than traditional workplace feedback. However, previous research has found that people do not always respond well to comparative feedback. This poses a problem for researchers and practitioners, as even the most advanced workplace feedback systems will fail if employees reject the feedback they are given.

In our first study we used an experimental design to evaluate how emotional responses to comparative or traditional feedback, and how well these emotional responses could be controlled, might relate to reactions to the feedback. Limited evidence was found to support our predictions. In our second study we sought to identify whether or not people, if given the choice, would have a preference between traditional and comparative feedback and how personality and individual differences relate to these preferences. We presented participants with a fictitious where they were presented with two job offers and asked them to choose between a company that would evaluate them using a comparative rating system, or a traditional rating system. We found that people who made use of interpersonal comparisons in their lives and those who could be described as highly organized, hard working and achievement oriented were more likely to indicate a preference for the comparative rating option.

Overall, although we found limited evidence based on the first study that some individual differences may not relate to reactions to comparative feedback, our second study found that certain segments of the population may be more interested than others in receiving comparative performance feedback. This may allow for improvements in the way and frequency with which comparative feedback and performance ratings can be implemented and leveraged in organizational contexts.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.