Macquarie University
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The effect of competitiveness on performance: investigating antecedents and consequences of employees’ competitiveness

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posted on 2022-10-26, 22:41 authored by Seung Jung Yang

While competitiveness at national and firm levels are well explored, the literature has also turned attention to competitiveness at the individual level. This thesis aims to better understand antecedents and outcomes of competitiveness in the case of employees. Theories around motivation, expectations, and Confucian values are drawn upon to advance knowledge of competitiveness in relation to work performance. This thesis contains three inter-related studies. Study 1 is a systematic and comprehensive review of literature on competitiveness at the individual level. It uses a combination of bibliometric analysis, text analysis, and manual review to identify gaps in the literature. The findings of this study indicate that while competitiveness has been studied in a wide range of disciplines, more research is needed to understand antecedents of competitiveness in the work context. Study 2 uses a quantitative research design to empirically examine motivation- needs for achievement, need for power, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation- as drivers of employee learning effort and work performance via competitiveness. This study collected data from employees with three different ethnic backgrounds, Caucasian, Chinese, and Korean, in the United States. Results show that competitiveness mediates the relationship between motivation and employee work performance for all ethnic groups. Finally, Study 3 applies a quantitative research design to examine the role of Confucian discipline and perceived parents' expectations on employee work performance, via self-expectation and competitiveness. In particular, this study explores two distinctive types of competitiveness, hypercompetitiveness and personal development competitiveness. The data was collected from employees of three countries, China, South Korea, and the United States (U.S). On the basis of ethnicity, the data were divided into five groups: Caucasian in the U.S, Chinese in the U.S, Korean in the U.S, Chinese in China, and Korean in Korea. The findings suggest that Confucian discipline is a unique driver of work performance for Chinese and Korean ethnic groups, and perceived parental expectations drive work performance via self-expectation and personal development competitiveness for all ethnic groups. In a nutshell, both Study 2 and Study 3 found a significant mediating role of competitiveness. Specifically, Study 2 showed that competitiveness mediated the relationship between motivation and work performance, while Study 3 revealed that personal development competitiveness mediated the association between Confucian discipline and work performance. This thesis makes a unique contribution with its systematic review of the literature on competitiveness at the individual level. With subsequent empirical evidence, the study contributes to the literature by extending existing knowledge on the drivers of employee work performance. Examining the mediating effect of competitiveness further helps in improving the understanding of how motivation, Confucian values, and perceived parental expectations are related to work performance. Additionally, this thesis also explores the mediating roles of two different types of competitive orientations: hypercompetitiveness, and personal development competitiveness, in explaining work performance. Overall, findings of this thesis indicate that competitiveness remains as an important concept to understand employee work performance.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Study 1. A bibliometric review of competitiveness at the individual level: Trait competitiveness, hypercompetitiveness, and personal development competitiveness -- Chapter 3. Study 2. The effect of motivation on employee learning effort and work performance among three ethnic groups: Exploring competitiveness as mediator -- Chapter 4. Study 3. Confucian discipline as a driver of work performance: A cross-cultural approach to the contrast in the mediating roles of hypercompetitiveness and personal development competitiveness -- Chapter 5. Discussion and Conclusion -- Consolidated references -- Appendices


A Dissertation Submitted to Macquarie Business School for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Department of Marketing, Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University

Department, Centre or School

Department of Marketing

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Chris Baumann

Additional Supervisor 1

Fei Guo


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




313 pages