Social Comparison at Work: The Role of Culture, Type of Organization and Gender

Abraham P. Buunk, Carmen Carmona, José M. Peiró, Arie Dijkstra, Pieternel Dijkstra


The present study examined social comparisons among employees in Spain (Study 1) and The Netherlands (Study 2). We expected differences in social comparison frequency and dimension between employees from public and private organizations as well as between men and women. In addition, among Dutch workers, we expected social comparisons to be relatively unaffected by the type of organization they participated in and gender differences to be smaller. Several interesting findings emerged. For instance, in Spain, workers in private organizations were found to compare themselves more often than workers in public organizations, whereas, in The Netherlands, this was not the case. Results suggest that social comparisons are significantly affected by national culture, work context and gender.
Key words: Social Comparison; Organizations; Gender, Culture

Resumé: Dans la présente étude nous avons examiné les comparaisons sociales entre des employés en Espagne (Etude 1) et aux Pays-Bas (Etude 2). Nous nous attendions à des différences dans la fréquence des comparaisons sociales, dans les dimensions de comparaison (effort versus résultats) et dans les objectifs des comparaisons (hommes versus femmes) entre les employés d’organisations publiques et privées ainsi qu’entre les hommes et les femmes. Il s’est trouvé qu’en Espagne, les employés des organisations privées faisaient des comparaisons plus fréquentes que les employés des organisations publiques. En plus, ils comparaient leurs efforts plus souvent que les employés des organisations privés. En revanche, les employés des organisations publiques, et particulièrement les femmes, comparaient leurs résultats plus souvent avec ceux d’autres personnes. Surtout les femmes travaillant dans des organisations privées se comparaient avec des femmes aussi bien qu’avec des hommes. Aux Pays-Bas, ces différences étaient absentes ou beaucoup moins prononcées. Les résultats montrent que les comparaisons sociales sont significativement influencées par culture nationale, type d’organisation et sexe. Mots-clés: Comparaison Sociale; Organisations; Sexe; Culture


Social Comparison; Organizations; Gender, Culture;Comparaison Sociale; Organisations; Sexe; Culture


Amabile, T.M., Hill, K.G., Hennessey, B.A., & Tighe, E.M. (1994). The Work Preference Inventory: Assessing intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(5), 950-967.

Barnum, P., Liden, R.C., & DiTomaso, N. (1995). Double jepaordy for women and minorities: Pay differences with age. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 863-880.

Bennett, W., Stadt, R., & Karmos, J. (1997). Values preferences by gender for nontraditional college students between 1992 and 1982. Counseling and Values, 41(3), 246-252.

Blanton, H., Buunk, B.P., Gibbons, F.X., & Kuyper, H. (1999). When better-than-others compare upwards: Choice of comparison and comparison evaluation as independent predictors of academic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(3), 420-430.

Blau, F.D., & Devardo, J. (2007). New evidence on gender differences in promotion rates: An empirical analysis of a sample of new hires. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy & Society, 46(3), 511-550.

Brown, D.J., Ferris, L.D., Heller, D., & Keeping, L.M. (2007). Antecedents and consequences of the frequency of upward and downward social comparisons at work. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 102(1), 59-75.

Burress, J.H., & Zucca, L.J. (2004). The gender equity gap in top corporate executive positions. Mid-American Journal of Business, 19(1), 55-62.

Buunk, A.P., & Gibbons, F.X. (Eds.). (1997). Health, coping and well-being: Perspectives from social comparison theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Buunk A.P., Cohen-Schotanus, J., & Van Nek, R.H. (2007). Why and how people engage in social comparison while learning social skills in groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 11, 140-152.

Buunk, A. P., Zurriaga, R., Gonzalez-Roma, V., & Subirats, M. (2003). Engaging in upward and downward comparisons as a determinant of relative deprivation at work: A longitudinal study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 370-388.

Buunk, A. P., Zurriaga, R., Peiró, C.M., Nauta, A., & Gosalvez, I. (2005). Social comparisons at work as related to a cooperative social climate and to individual differences in social comparison. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54, 61-80.

Buunk, A.P. & Gibbons, F.X. (2006). Social comparison orientation: A new perspective on those who do and those who don't compare with others. In: S. Guimond (Eds.), Social comparison and social psychology: Understanding cognition, intergroup relations, and culture (pp 15-32). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Buunk, A.P., & Gibbons, F.X. (2007). Social comparison: The end of a theory and the emergence of a field. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process, 102, 3-21.

Buunk, A..P. & Ybema, J.F. (1997). Social comparisons and occupational stress: the identifaction-contrast model. In B.P. Buunk & F.X. Gibbons (Eds.), Health, coping and well being: Perspectives from social comparison theory (pp. 359-388). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Carpenter, S. (2000). Effects of cultural tightness and collectivism on self-concept and causal attributions. Cross-Cultural Research: The Journal of Comparative Social Science, 34(1), 38-56.

Centers, R., & Bugental, D.E. (1966). Intrinsic and extrinsic job motivations among different segments of the working population. Journal of Applied Psychology, 50(3), 193-197.

Chung, T., & Mallery, P. (1999). Social comparison, individualism-collectivism, and self-esteem in China and the United States. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 18(4), 340-352.

D?hlen, M. (2007). Job values, gender and profession: A comparative study of the transition from school to work. Journal of Education and Work, 20(2), 107-121.

Eddleston, K.A. (2009). The effects of social comparisons on managerial career satisfaction and turnover intentions. The Career Development International, 14(1), 87-110.

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140.

Garcia, S.M., & Tor, A. (2007). Rankings, standards, and competition: Task vs. scale comparisons. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 102(1), 95-108.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., & Gonzalez, R. (2006). Ranks and rivals: A theory of competition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(7), 970-982.

Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: The development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 129–142.

Goodman, P. (1977). Social comparison processes in organizations. In B.M. Staw & G.R. Salancik (Eds.), New directions in organizational behavior (pp. 97-132). Chicago: St. Clair Press.

Gornick, J.C. & Jacobs, J.A. (1998). Gender, the welfare state, and public employment: A comparative study of seven industrialized countries. American Sociological Review, 63(5), 688-710.

Gruder, C. L. (1977). Choice of comparison persons in evaluating oneself. In: J. Suls & R. Miller (Eds.), Social comparison processes: Theoretical and empirical perspectives (pp 21-41). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.

Halbesleben, J.R.B., & Buckley, R.M. (2006). Social comparison and burnout: The role of relative burnout and received social support. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 19(3), 259-278.

Harris, M.M., Anseel, F., & Lievens, F. (2008). Keeping up with the Joneses: A field study of the relationships among upward, lateral, and downward comparisons and pay level satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(3), 665-673.

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

Hofstede, G. (2000). Masculine and feminine cultures. In: A.E. Kazdin (Eds.), Encyclopedia of psychology (Vol. 5; pp. 115-118). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hofstede, G. & Hofstede, G.J. (2007). Allemaal andersdenkenden/Different ways of thinking. Amsterdam: Contact.

Joshi, H., Makepeace, G., & Dolton, P. (2007) More or less unequal? Evidence on the pay of men and women from the British birth cohort studies. Work & Organization, 14(1), 37-55.

Lockwood, P., & Kunda, Z. (1997). Superstars and me: Predicting the impact of role models on the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 91-103.

Mandel, H., & Semyonov, M. (2006). A Welfare State paradox: State interventions and women's employment opportunities in 22 countries. American Journal of Sociology, 111(6), 1910-1949.

Mano-Negrin, R. (2004). Gender inequality and employment policy in the public sector: A cross-national comparison of women managers' wages in five industrialized countries. Administration & Society, 36(4), 454-477.

Maume, D.J. (2006). Gender differences in taking vacation time. Work and Occupations, 33(2), 161-190.

Mauno, S., Kinnunen, U., & Piitulainen, S. (2005). Work-family culture in four organizations in Finland: Examining antecedents and outcomes. Community, Work & Family, 8(2), 115-140.

Menéndez, M., Benach, J., Muntaner, C., Amable, M., & O'Campo, P. (2007). Is precarious employment more damaging to women's health than men's? Social Science & Medicine, 64(4), 776-781.

Michinov, N. (2005). Social comparison, perceived control, and occupational burnout. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54(1), 99-118.

Miller, C. T. (1984). Self-schemas, gender, and social comparison: A clarification of the related attributes hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 1222-1229.

Miller, R. L., & Suls, J. (1977). Affiliation preferences as a function of attitude and ability similarity. In J. Suls & R.L. Miller (Eds.), Social comparison processes. Theoretical and empirical processes (pp. 103-124). New York: Hemisphere.

Mohanty, S. & Mishra,P.K. (1998). Occupational stress: A comparative study of public & private sector. Social Science International, 14(1-2), 29-39.

Nowlin, W.A. (1982). Factors that motivate public and private sector managers: A comparison. Public Personnel Management, 11(3), 224-227.

Portegijs, W., Hermans, B., & Lalta, V. (2006). Emancipatiemonitor 2006. The Hague: Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau.

Porter, L. W, & Van Maanen, J. (1970). Task accomplishment and the management of time. In B. M. Bass (Ed.), Managing for accomplishment. Lexington, MA: Lexington.

Rawls, J. R., Ulrich, R. A., & Nelson, O. T. (1976). A comparison of managers entering or reentering the profit and nonprofit sectors. Academy of Management Journal, 18, 616-662.

Sedikides, C., Gaertner, L., & Vevea, J.L. (2005). Pancultural self-enhancement reloaded: A meta-analytic reply to Heine (2005). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(4), 539-551.

Singh, S. (1994). Gender differences in work values and personality characteristics among Indian executives. Journal of Social Psychology, 134(5), 699-700.

Solomon, E. E. (1986). Private and public sector managers: An empirical investigation of job characteristics and organizational climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 247-259.

Steil, J.M., & Hay, J.L. (1997). Social comparison in the workplace: A study of 60 dual-career couples. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 427-438.

Suls, J., & Wheeler, L. (2000). A selective history of classic and neo-social comparison theory. In: J. Suls & L. Wheeler (Eds.), Handbook of social comparison: Theory and research (pp. 1-23). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Sweeney, P.D., & McFarlin, D.B. (2005). Wage comparisons with similar and dissimilar others. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78(1), 113-131.

Taylor, S. E., & Lobel, M. (1989). Social comparison activity under threat: Downward evaluation and upward contacts. Psychological Review, 96, 569–575.

Tornow, W. W. (1971). The development and application of an input-outcome moderator test on the perception and reduction of inequity. Organizational Behavior & Human Performance, 6, 614-638

United Nations (2007/2008). Human Development Report (see also

Van Oudenhoven, J.P. (2001). Do organizations reflect national cultures?: A 10-nation study. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 25(1), 89-107.

Walmsley, G. L. & Zald, M. N. (1973).The Political Economy of Public Organizations. Public Administrative Review 33, 62-73.

White, K. & Lehman, D. R. (2005). Culture and Social Comparison Seeking: The Role of Self-Motives. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 232-242.

Wills, T. A. (1981). Downward comparison principles in social psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 245-271.

Wood, J. V. (1989). Theory and research concerning social comparisons of personal attributes. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 231–248.



  • There are currently no refbacks.


How to do online submission to another Journal?

If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.

We only use four mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases:;;;

Copyright © Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture (CAOOC)
Address:730, 77e AV, Laval, Quebec, H7V 4A8, Canada

Telephone: 1-514-558 6138
Http://; Http://;