Influence of Internal versus External References on Individuals' Satisfaction with Academic and Professional Performance Evaluations

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Umphaithip Namprasertkul
Dolchai La-ornual


An individual’s level of satisfaction with a particular performance evaluation may depend on both internal and external references. Employees may compare their current performance appraisal with those in the past (an internal reference). Similarly, students may benchmark a grade just received with those of friends (an external reference). This study examines how the two different reference sources can affect satisfaction with evaluations both in school and at work. We conducted a designed experiment with 276 Thai working adults who were also enrolled in part-time master’s degree programs. Results reveal that relative performance with respect to both those of oneself as well as to those of others can affect people’s satisfaction with evaluations in both academic and professional settings. In academic settings internal reference is a cause of dissatisfaction if people perform worse that they have in the past while external reference is a cause of satisfaction when people perform better than their peers in class. The converse is true in work settings. Different perspectives of motivation and competition in the two settings are the likely explanation for these results. The findings can be useful in helping academic and professional organizations to create initiatives to improve satisfaction of their student-employees.


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Dolchai La-ornual, Business Administration Division, Mahidol University International College, Mahidol University

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