Role of self-esteem and self-presentation concerns in reactions to performance feedback: a preliminary model

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Virginia Tech

Several recent experiments have suggested that high versus low esteem persons differ in the extent to which they use interpersonal behaviors to cope with negative feedback from others. In particular, it has been suggested that low self-esteem persons attempt to enhance themselves in public but not privately whereas this difference does not exist for high self-esteem persons. The present study tested a proposed model of interpersonal reactions to performance feedback. The model was investigated through two experimental designs. Design la examined high self-esteem (HSE) and low self-esteem (LSE) subordinate's reactions to positive and negative performance feedback in a public versus private settings. Design is examined whether information about the subordinate's reactions affected the supervisor's ratings of the subordinate. Overall, the proposed model gained some empirical support. The prediction that LSE subordinates would engage in self presentational behaviors as a means of self-enhancement was partially supported in the positive feedback conditions, but not in the negative feedback conditions. As predicted, HSE subordinates showed no differences in reactions obtained in the public versus private setting, and as predicted, showed no increases in resultant esteem. The most striking support for the model comes from the correspondence between subordinate's reactions and subsequent supervisor ratings of the subordinate. This relationship emerged only when the supervisor had knowledge of the subordinate's reactions. The longer term effects of subordinates' reactions to feedback are discussed in reference to subordinate participation in performance appraisal meetings.