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Is it better to be average? High and low performance as predictors of employee victimization

Jaclyn Jensen, DePaul University

Abstract

Given increased interest in whether targets’ behaviors at work are related to their victimization, we investigated employees’ job performance level as a precipitating factor for being victimized by peers in one’s work group. Drawing on rational choice theory and the victim precipitation model, we argue that perpetrators take into consideration the risks of aggressing against particular targets, such that high performers tend to experience covert forms of victimization from peers, whereas low performers tend to experience overt forms of victimization. We further contend that the motivation to punish performance deviants will be higher when performance differentials are salient, such that the effects of job performance on covert and overt victimization will be exacerbated by group performance polarization, yet mitigated when the target has high equity sensitivity (benevolence). Finally, we investigate whether victimization is associated with future performance impairments. Results from data collected at three time points from 576 individuals in 62 workgroups largely support the proposed model. The findings suggest that job performance is a precipitating factor to covert victimization for high performers and overt victimization for low performers in the workplace with implications for subsequent performance.

Suggested Citation

Jensen, J. M., Patel, P. C., & Raver, J. L. (2014). Is it better to be average? High and low performance as predictors of employee victimization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99, 296-309.