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.
Grant, A. M., &Hofmann, D. A. (2011). Outsourcing inspiration: The performance effects of ideological messages from leaders and beneficiaries. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116(2), 173-187.