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Job insecurity and impression management: Which is the horse and which is the cart when it comes to job performance?

Tahira M. Probst (Washington State University Vancouver, Vancouver, Washington, USA)
Lixin Jiang (Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Sergio Andrés López Bohle (Department of Administración, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Santiago, Chile)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 2 August 2019

Issue publication date: 20 March 2020



The purpose of this paper is to test competing models of the relationship between job insecurity and two forms of impression management (self- and supervisor-focused) on job performance. Specifically, does job insecurity lead to greater subsequent impression management; or, does preventative use of impression management subsequently lead to reductions in job insecurity? Additionally, how do these both relate to in-role performance?


Using two-wave survey data collected from 184 working adults in the USA and the two-step approach recommended by Cole and Maxwell (2003) and Taris and Kompier (2006), the authors tested cross-lagged relationship between job insecurity and both forms of impression management by comparing four different models: a stability model, a normal causation model (with cross-lagged paths from T1 job insecurity to T2 impression management), a reversed causation model (with cross-lagged paths from T1 impression management to T2 job insecurity) and a reciprocal causation model (with all cross-lagged paths described in the normal and reversed causation model).


Results were supportive of the reversed causation model which indicated that greater use of supervisor-focused impression management at Time 1 predicted lower levels of job insecurity at Time 2 (after controlling for prior levels of job insecurity); moreover, job insecurity at Time 1 was then significantly associated with more positive in-role behaviors at Time 2. Moreover, the test of the indirect effect between T1 impression management and T2 performance was significant.


These results suggest that impression management clearly plays an important role in understanding the relationship between job insecurity and job performance. However, employees appear to utilize impression management as a means of pre-emptively enhancing their job security, rather than as a tool to reactively cope with perceived job insecurity.



This research was partially supported by an Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professorship award granted to the first author by Washington State University, as well as a Proyecto Dicyt USACH (Grant No. 031861LB), Vicerrectoría de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación de Universidad de Santiago de Chile granted to the third author.


Probst, T.M., Jiang, L. and López Bohle, S.A. (2020), "Job insecurity and impression management: Which is the horse and which is the cart when it comes to job performance?", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 306-324.



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