The effect of goal-orientation on observational learning within the context of comparison with a high-performing coworker The differential mediating effect of self-setting goal level

Main Article Content

TaeYong Yoo
HyoIm Choi


Why some learn lessons from a high-performing coworker’s behavior and apply to themselves whilst others do not? The aim of the current research is to understand the characteristics of those who do learn lessons by observing high-performing coworker’s behaviors even though the interaction with them may be threatening. Specifically, we suggest that high-LGO(learning goal orientation) individuals and high-PPGO(performance prove goal orientation) individuals are observing high-performing coworker's behavior intention. Also, based on the motivated action theory, we argue that individuals with a different goal orientation set higher goal level with a different referenced goal level (i.e., self vs. other). The data from American full-time employees (n=221) has revealed that both LGO and PPGO had a positive relationship with observational learning. In addition, self-referenced goal level mediated the relationship between LGO and observational learning, while other-referenced goal level mediated the relationship between PPGO and observational learning. Based on the results, the implications of this study and the directions for future researches were discussed with limitations.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
Yoo, T., & Choi, H. (2021). The effect of goal-orientation on observational learning within the context of comparison with a high-performing coworker: The differential mediating effect of self-setting goal level. Korean Journal of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 34(4), 697–721.
Empirical Articles

Funding data


Alper, S., Tjosvold, D., & Law, K. S. (1998). Interdependence and controversy in group decision making: Antecedents to effective self-managing teams. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 74(1), 33-52. DOI:

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261-271. DOI:

Ashford, S. J. (1986). Feedback-seeking in individual adaptation: A resource perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 29(3), 465-487. DOI:

Bandura, A. (1971). Social learning theory. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A., & Jourden, F. J. (1991). Self-regulatory mechanisms governing the impact of social comparison on complex decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(6), 941-951. DOI:

Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173-1182. DOI:

Button, S. B., Mathieu, J. E., & Zajac, D. M. (1996). Goal orientation in organizational research: A conceptual and empirical foundation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. DOI:

Campbell, E. M., Liao, H., Chuang, A., Zhou, J., & Dong, Y. (2017). Hot shots and cool reception? An expanded view of social consequences for high performers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(5), 845-866. DOI:

Cialdini, R. B., Borden, R. J., Thorne, A., Walker, M. R., Freeman, S., & Sloan, L. R. (1976). Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(3), 366-375. DOI:

Cohen-Charash, Y., & Mueller, J. S. (2007). Does perceived unfairness exacerbate or mitigate interpersonal counterproductive work behaviors related to envy? Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 666-680. DOI:

Darnon, C., Dompnier, B., Gilliéron, O., & Butera, F. (2010). The interplay of mastery and performance goals in social comparison: A multiple-goal perspective. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(1), 212-222. doi:10.1037/a0018161 DOI:

DeShon, R. P., & Gillespie, J. Z. (2005). A motivated action theory account of goal orientation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(6), 1096-1127. DOI:

Downes, P. E., Crawford, E. R., Seibert, S. E., Stoverink, A. C., & Campbell, E. M. (2021). Referents or role models? The self-efficacy and job performance effects of perceiving higher performing peers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(3), 422-438. DOI:

Duffy, M. K., Scott, K. L., Shaw, J. D., Tepper, B. J., & Aquino, K. (2012). A social context model of envy and social undermining. Academy of Management Journal, 55(3), 643-666. DOI:

Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1040-1048. DOI:

Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256-273. DOI:

Elliot, A. J (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 52-72). New York, NY: Guilford Publications.

Elliot, A. J., & Church, M. A. (1997). A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(1), 218-232. DOI:

Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 461-475. DOI:

Elliott, E. S., & Dweck, C. S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 5-12. DOI:

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117-140. DOI:

Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press

Hill, S. E., DelPriore, D. J., & Vaughan, P. W. (2011). The cognitive consequences of envy: Attention, memory, and self-regulatory depletion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(4), 653-666. DOI:

Hofmann, D. A., & Strickland, O. J. (1995). Task performance and satisfaction: Evidence for a task‐by ego-orientation interaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25(6), 495-511. DOI:

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's consequence: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA:Sage.

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(2), 296-309. DOI: 10.1037/a0023904 DOI:

Kanfer, R., Frese, M., & Johnson, R. E. (2017). Motivation related to work: A century of progress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 338-355. DOI:

Kim, E., & Glomb, T. M. (2010). Get smarty pants: Cognitive ability, personality, and victimization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 889-901. doi: 10.1037/a0019985 DOI:

Kim, E., & Glomb, T. M. (2014). Victimization of high performers: The roles of envy and work group identification. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(4), 619-634. DOI:

Kim, S. R., & Yoo, T. Y. (2010). The influence of self-regulation activities and social network in the relationship between individual goal orientation and job performance. The Korean Journal of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 23(3), 525-550. DOI:

Lam, C. K., Van der Vegt, G. S., Walter, F., & Huang, X. (2011). Harming high performers: A social comparison perspective on interpersonal harming in work teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 588-601. doi: 10.1037/a0021882 DOI:

Lee, K., & Duffy, M. K. (2019). A functional model of workplace envy and job performance: When do employees capitalize on envy by learning from envied targets? Academy of Management Journal, 62(4), 1085-1110. DOI:

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Mangos, P. M., & Steele-Johnson, D. (2001). The role of subjective task complexity in goal orientation, self-efficacy, and performance relations. Human Performance, 14(2), 169-185. DOI:

Mischel, W. (1973). Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality. Psychological Review, 80(4), 252-283.http://dx.doi .org/10.1037/h0035002. DOI:

Phillips, J. M., & Gully, S. M. (1997). Role of goal orientation, ability, need for achievement, and locus of control in the self-efficacy and goal-setting process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(5), 792-802. DOI:

Pomaki, G., Karoly, P., & Maes, S. (2009). Linking goal progress to subjective well-being at work: The moderating role of goal-related self-efficacy and attainability. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(2), 206-218. DOI:

Pomaki, G., Maes, S., & Ter Doest, L. (2004). Work conditions and employees’ self-set goals: Goal processes enhance prediction of psychological distress and well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(6), 685-694. DOI:

Poortvliet, P. M., & Darnon, C. (2010). Toward a more social understanding of achievement goals: The interpersonal effects of mastery and performance goals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(5), 324-328. doi: 10.1177/0963721410383246 DOI:

Reh, S., Tröster, C., & Quaquebeke, N. V. (2018). Keeping (future) rivals down: Temporal social comparison predicts coworker social undermining via future status threat and envy, Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(4), 399-415. DOI:

Rhee, J. M., Shin, Y. W., & Sohn, Y. W. (2016). Hostile attribution and counterproductive work behavior: A moderated mediation model of malicious envy, negative reciprocity and competitive organizational goal. Korean Journal of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 29(4), 491-523. DOI:

Shockley, K. M., Clark, M. A., Dodd, H., & King, E. B. (2021). Work-family strategies during COVID-19: Examining gender dynamics among dual-earner couples with young children. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(1), 15-28. DOI:

Taylor, S. E., Wayment, H. A, & Carrillo, M. (1996). Social comparison, self-regulation, and motivation. In R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition, Vol. 3. The interpersonal context (pp. 3-27). The Guilford Press.

Triandis, H. C. (1994). Theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of collectivism and individualism. In U. Kim, H. C. Triandis, Ç. Kâğitçibaşi, S. Choi & G. Yoon (Eds.), Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications (pp. 137-156). Thousand oaks, CA:Sage.

VandeWalle, D. (1997). Development and validation of a work domain goal orientation instrument. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 57(6), 995-1015. DOI:

VandeWalle, D., Brown, S. P., Cron, W. L., & Slocum, J. W., Jr. (1999). The influence of goal orientation and self-regulation tactics on sales performance: A longitudinal field test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(2), 249-259. DOI:

Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2004). Understanding self-regulation. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and application (pp. 1-9). New York: Guilford Press

Welsh, D. T., Baer, M. D., & Sessions, H. (2020). Hot pursuit: The affective consequences of organization-set versus self-set goals for emotional exhaustion and citizenship behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(2), 166-185. DOI:

Wood, J. V. (1989). Theory and research concerning social comparisons of personal attributes. Psychological Bulletin, 106(2), 231-248.http://dx.doi .org/10.1037/0033-2909.106.2.231 DOI:

Wood, R., & Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory of organizational management. Academy of Management Review, 14(3), 361-384. DOI:

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>