The promise and perversity of perspective-taking in organizations

Gillian Ku*, Cynthia S. Wang, Adam D. Galinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Successful managers and leaders need to effectively navigate their organizational worlds, from motivating customers and employees to managing diversity to preventing and resolving conflicts. Perspective-taking is a psychological process that is particularly relevant to each of these activities. The current review critically examines perspective-taking research conducted by both management scholars and social psychologists and specifies perspective-taking's antecedents, consequences, mechanisms, and moderators, as well as identifies theoretical and/or empirical shortfalls. Our summary of the current state of perspective-taking research offers three important contributions. First, we offer a new definition of perspective-taking: the active cognitive process of imagining the world from another's vantage point or imagining oneself in another's shoes to understand their visual viewpoint, thoughts, motivations, intentions, and/or emotions. Second, we highlight that although perspective-taking has many positive benefits for managers and leaders, it also carries with it the potential for perverse effects. Third, we argue that previous theoretical lenses to understand perspective-taking's goal are insufficient in light of all the available evidence. Instead, we offer a new theoretical proposition to capture the full range of perspective-taking's positive and negative effects: perspective-taking helps individuals effectively navigate a world filled with mixed-motive social interactions. Our mixed-motive model of perspective-taking not only captures the current findings but also offers new directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-102
Number of pages24
JournalResearch in Organizational Behavior
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Ethics
  • Groups
  • Interpersonal and intergroup relations
  • Mixed-motive-interactions
  • Negotiations
  • Perspective-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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