Social comparisons and organizational support: Implications for commitment and retention


Organizational support theory (OST) suggests that employees develop a general perception of the extent to which the organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being (perceived organizational support – POS), and respond to that support through attitudes and behaviors that are beneficial toward the organization. Although OST emphasizes both social exchange and self-enhancement processes, most accounts of POS’s effects are rooted in social exchange. For example, POS’s linkages with commitment and retention have been explained as an exchange of support for positive attitudes and continued employment. This research sheds light on self-enhancement’s less-understood role in fostering these reactions by demonstrating the influence of social comparison effects. Drawing on a sample of 342 employees nested in 82 work-units of a US hospitality company, our analysis demonstrates that favorable POS comparisons with peers in one’s work-unit are positively associated with commitment and retention, whereas unfavorable comparisons are negatively related. Results also show that comparisons taking place in less-supported work-units have stronger impact than comparisons made in those with better support. Our findings extend OST by revealing the importance of social comparisons in engendering responses to organizational support, and in so doing potentially explicate the differential ways social exchange and self-enhancement operate with regard to POS.

Publication Title

Human Relations