What Does Your I-deal Say About Me? A Social Comparison Examination of Coworker Reactions to Flexibility I-deals

T. Van Waeyenberg*, Lieven Brebels, Sophie De Winne, Elise Marescaux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We focus on the implications of flexibility i-deals, that is, individually negotiated employment conditions regarding when, where and/or how to work, for i-dealers’ coworkers. Drawing on social comparison theory, we examine how coworkers’ attributions regarding the basis for flexibility i-deals (i.e., needs or performance) and perceptions of procedural fairness concerning the allocation of flexibility i-deals predict the display of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) via feelings of competence. The results, based on two independent and complementary studies (n1 =260; n2=211), are consistent with our hypothesized moderated-mediation model. Whereas need attributions are positively related to competence feelings and subsequent OCB, performance attributions are negatively related to these variables. The effects are more pronounced at high than at low levels of procedural fairness. This suggests that fair procedures do not always benefit coworker reactions as they can enlarge the negative impact of performance attributions on feelings of competence and subsequent OCB. Furthermore, we provide evidence for the explanatory mechanisms by revealing that the attribution (needs vs. performance) drives opposing social comparisons (downward vs. upward, respectively) and that procedural fairness can increase coworkers’ felt personal accountability for these comparisons, thereby triggering a matching emotional response. Our results show that flexibility i-deals can have a bright side, but also a dark side, depending upon the basis and fairness of the allocation. As such, they enrich the academic conversation about the effectiveness of flexibility i-deals and guide practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-223
Number of pages32
JournalGroup & Organization Management
Issue number1
Early online date25 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • competence
  • flexibility
  • idiosyncratic deal
  • organizational citizenship behavior
  • procedural fairness


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