This year’s Master Thesis Award went to Susan Reh for her thesis “Keeping rivals down: The effect of social comparison dynamics on interpersonal organizational citizenship behavior and social undermining”.
Susan, who holds a Bachelor in Psychology, wrote her thesis in the area of Leadership and Organizational Behavior under the supervision of Prof. Niels Van Quaquebeke and Prof. Christian Tröster.
In the thesis, she investigated how comparison processes over time affect employee behavior. While it is common to compare oneself with others in organizations and that such comparisons have consequences for one’s well-being, respective research did not yet investigate in how far changes over time, i.e. development trajectories, affect such comparisons. Moreover, it was unexplored whether comparisons that are unfavorable to oneself will affect people’s behavior towards their rivals.
Using an experimental vignette study, Susan could show that, irrespective of the final comparison distance, comparison trajectories where someone else catches up with participants result in participants showing less interpersonal organizational citizenship behavior and more social undermining towards that person. In other words, employees, who perceive their position to be under threat, are likely to behave less cooperatively toward a potentially more successful colleague.
These results are first evidence that employees at work may actively hinder high potentials’ rising. This is of high relevance for companies who invest a lot in the recruitment of high potential employees, but often fail to retain them.
The prize, which was awarded as part of the graduation ceremony on September 13th, also constitutes the beginning of Susan’s PhD at the Kühne Logistics University – with the supervisor team she was already successful with before. As Susan puts it “This is a great opportunity to further my studies at the interface of management and psychology with faculty that value to have impact on business practice through rigorous research“.