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Outsourcing inspiration: The performance effects of ideological messages from leaders and beneficiaries


  • Grant, Adam M.
  • Hofmann, David A.


Although ideological messages are thought to inspire employee performance, research has shown mixed results. Typically, ideological messages are delivered by leaders, but employees may be suspicious of ulterior motives—leaders may merely be seeking to inspire higher performance. As such, we propose that these messages are often more effective when outsourced to a more neutral third party—the beneficiaries of employees’ work. In Study 1, a field quasi-experiment with fundraisers, ideological messages from a beneficiary—but not from two leaders—increased performance. In Study 2, a laboratory experiment with an editing task, participants achieved higher task and citizenship performance when an ideological message was delivered by a speaker portrayed as a beneficiary vs. a leader, mediated by suspicion. In Study 3, a laboratory experiment with a marketing task, the beneficiary source advantage was contingent on message content: beneficiaries motivated higher task and citizenship performance than leaders with prosocial messages but not achievement messages.

Suggested Citation

  • Grant, Adam M. & Hofmann, David A., 2011. "Outsourcing inspiration: The performance effects of ideological messages from leaders and beneficiaries," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 173-187.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:116:y:2011:i:2:p:173-187
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.06.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grant, Adam M. & Campbell, Elizabeth M. & Chen, Grace & Cottone, Keenan & Lapedis, David & Lee, Karen, 2007. "Impact and the art of motivation maintenance: The effects of contact with beneficiaries on persistence behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 53-67, May.
    2. Friestad, Marian & Wright, Peter, 1994. " The Persuasion Knowledge Model: How People Cope with Persuasion Attempts," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-31, June.
    3. Oza, Shweta S. & Srivastava, Joydeep & Koukova, Nevena T., 2010. "How suspicion mitigates the effect of influence tactics," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 1-10, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Venus, Merlijn & Stam, Daan & van Knippenberg, Daan, 2013. "Leader emotion as a catalyst of effective leader communication of visions, value-laden messages, and goals," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 53-68.
    2. Llopis, Oscar & D’Este, Pablo, 2016. "Beneficiary contact and innovation: The relation between contact with patients and medical innovation under different institutional logics," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1512-1523.


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