When Does Self-Esteem Relate to Deviant Behavior? The Role of Contingencies of Self-Worth

D. Lance Ferris, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Lisa M. Keeping

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Researchers have assumed that low self-esteem predicts deviance, but empirical results have been mixed. This article draws upon recent theoretical developments regarding contingencies of self-worth to clarify the self-esteem/deviance relation. It was predicted that self-esteem level would relate to deviance only when self-esteem was not contingent on workplace performance. In this manner, contingent self-esteem is a boundary condition for self-consistency/behavioral plasticity theory predictions. Using multisource data collected from 123 employees over 6 months, the authors examined the interaction between level (high/low) and type (contingent/noncontingent) of self-esteem in predicting workplace deviance. Results support the hypothesized moderating effects of contingent self-esteem; implications for self-esteem theories are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1353
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • contingent self-esteem
  • organizational deviance
  • plasticity theory
  • self-consistency theory
  • self-esteem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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