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Thinking of how you think of me: working cancer survivors' metaperceptions of competence and why they matter

Dianhan Zheng (Department of Psychological Science, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Alexander R. Marbut (Department of Management, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Jing Zhang (Department of Management, California State University San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, USA)
Avery Britt (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
David Nwadike (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 20 February 2023

Issue publication date: 9 March 2023




Cancer-related stigma is a troubling challenge faced by working cancer survivors and organizations aiming to promote inclusive work environments. Research suggests that a harmful stereotype faced by cancer survivors is that the cancer survivors are low in competence. Leveraging the concept of the looking glass self and social cognitive theory, the authors develop a theoretical model about psychological processes through which cancer survivors' competence metaperceptions are related to work outcomes.


The authors recruited 200 working cancer survivors from online research panels and empirically test a theoretical model on how cancer survivors' metaperceptions of competence are related to the survivors' turnover intention and vigor at work. The authors additionally conducted an experimental vignette study among a sample of 133 students to examine confounds concerning causal order.


The authors found that favorable competence metaperceptions were related to decreased turnover intentions and increased vigor through cancer survivors' enhanced self-efficacy, especially for survivors high in need for emotional support.

Practical implications

This study suggests that inclusive organizations should pay attention to employees with cancer histories as a hidden disadvantaged group. To protect and motivate working cancer survivors, managers need to create a positive socio-cognitive working environment where cancer survivors are respected and valued.


By examining cancer survivors' metaperceptions and showing that survivors may internalize others' stereotype about individuals with a history of cancer, the authors advance the understanding about cancer survivors' return-to-work challenges.



Funding: This study was funded by the Cross-College Faculty Research Program sponsored by the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


Zheng, D., Marbut, A.R., Zhang, J., Britt, A. and Nwadike, D. (2023), "Thinking of how you think of me: working cancer survivors' metaperceptions of competence and why they matter", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 158-173.



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