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Impacts of salespeople’s biased and unbiased performance attributions on job satisfaction: the concept of misattributed satisfaction

Christine Lai-Bennejean (Department of Marketing, Emlyon Business School, Ecully, France)
Lauren Beitelspacher (Department of Marketing, Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 22 September 2020

Issue publication date: 23 January 2021




This study aims to investigate an under-researched area, the impact of causal attributions (i.e. causal stability and company-related/-unrelated attributions) on salespeople’s job satisfaction following their performance appraisal.


A pre-test and a between-subjects experimental study test the effect of accurate or biased perceptions of causal attributions on salespeople’s job satisfaction. Data collected from 209 salespeople provide evidence that they make perceptual attribution errors in their appraisals of the performance outcome they achieve or do not achieve.


When salespeople correctly attribute their performance, causal stability affects their job satisfaction. However, company-related attributions affect their satisfaction only in the case of a poor performance outcome. As expected, salespeople who make biased attributions experience misattributed or “unwarranted” satisfaction or dissatisfaction, a higher or lower satisfaction level than they would have experienced had they made proper causal attributions.

Research limitations/implications

Using Weiner’s theory of emotion and motivation as a theoretical framework, this study confirms that cognitive appraisals of event outcomes (in this case performance reviews) impacts salespeople’s emotional experience. Furthermore, causal ascriptions following the salesperson’s performance appraisal affect job satisfaction.

Practical implications

This study discusses how managers can ensure the continued satisfaction of their salespeople, which constitutes a stable source of motivation, by understanding their performance attributions.


This study introduces a new concept of misattributed job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. While anecdotally some scholars have investigated when salespeople play “the blame game”, this study shows how salespeople correctly or incorrectly ascribe blame for the outcomes and the impact on job satisfaction.



Lai-Bennejean, C. and Beitelspacher, L. (2021), "Impacts of salespeople’s biased and unbiased performance attributions on job satisfaction: the concept of misattributed satisfaction", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 2, pp. 468-496.



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