When interpersonal competition helps and when it harms: An integration via challenge and threat

Christopher To*, Gavin J. Kilduff, Blythe L. Rosikiewicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Interpersonal competition is ubiquitous in organizations and is studied across a variety of disciplines. However, these literatures have developed in parallel with little inte-gration, stunting scholarly progress and leaving researchers and practitioners uncertain as to whether competition within organizations is beneficial versus harmful. This review attempts to resolve these issues. First, we define interpersonal competition as existing when an individual desires, and directs behavior toward, attaining relative superiority over other(s) on a particular dimension. Second, we review the empirical research on the consequences of interpersonal competition, focusing on the factors that determine when interpersonal competition is helpful versus harmful for individual and interpersonal outcomes in organizations, while highlighting the common mechanisms that ap-pear to underlie these factors. This prior work suggests when competition is appraised as a challenge, its downsides are mitigated and its benefits are most evident. Conversely, when competition is appraised as a threat, its downsides become most evident. We hope this review provides an entry point for scholars interested in interpersonal competition and a more parsimonious account of its consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-934
Number of pages27
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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