Ostracism, self-esteem, and job performance: When do we self-verify and when do we self-enhance?

D. Lance Ferris, Huiwen Lian, Douglas J. Brown, Rachel Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Self-esteem level has been positioned as a key mediating mechanism accounting for the effects of ostracism on behaviors, invoking the notion that individuals seek to verify their self-perceptions by behaving in a way that is consistent with those self-perceptions. However, evidence supporting the relation of ostracism and self-esteem level to behavioral outcomes has been mixed. We argue that such mixed effects arise because individuals may engage in behaviors alternately to verify their self-perceptions (suggesting a relation between self-esteem level and behavioral outcomes) or to selfenhance (suggesting no relation between self-esteem level and behavioral outcomes). Within this framing, the question becomes: When do we self-verify and when do we self-enhance? To that end, we position contingent self-esteem-or the extent to which individuals base their self-worth on outcomes in a particular domain-as a determining factor in whether we self-verify or self-enhance, and present a moderated mediation model to account for varying relations between ostracism and job performance. Our predictions regarding self-verification and self-enhancement motivation are fully supported across two field samples using multi-wave, multi-source study designs. Theoretical and practical implications for self-verification and self-enhancement motivation, as well as negative interpersonal behaviors at work, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-297
Number of pages19
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Academy of Management Journal.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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