Helping While Competing? The Complex Effects of Competitive Climates on the Prosocial Identity and Performance Relationship

Emily M. DAVID*, Tae-Yeol KIM, Matt RODGERS, Tingting CHEN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Integrating notions of coopetition with social information processing theory, we build and test a theoretical model that explains the paradox that arises when prosocial identifying employees work in competitive climates. Sampling 406 subordinates nested within 91 supervisors over two time‐points, we show that the relationship between prosocial identity and interpersonal helping is stronger when competitive climate is low rather than high. We also find that competitive team climate positively relates to instrumental helping motives (i.e., helping others to gain something in return). In addition, instrumental helping motives significantly moderate the linkage between interpersonal helping and job performance as well as the indirect effect of prosocial identity on job performance via interpersonal helping such that the main and indirect effects became weaker as instrumental helping motives increased. Overall, our findings reveal new insights into how prosocial identifiers incorporate information from social cues to strike a balance between cooperation and competition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1507-1531
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number6
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to sincerely thank Adam Grant, Larry Farh, Flora Chiang, Sebastian Schuh, and Sabrina Volpone for their invaluable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. We also appreciate the research support provided by Xing Wang and Huanxin Liu. This research was supported by CEIBS grant #18WHOH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Management Studies published by Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • competitive team climate
  • helping behaviour
  • helping motives
  • instrumental helping motives
  • job performance
  • prosocial identity


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