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The linkage between status-leveling symbols and work attitudes

Lu Zhang (School of Technology Management, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Ulju-gun, Republic of Korea)
David Morand (School of Business Administration, Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg, Middletown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between status-leveling symbols (i.e. the symbols used by organizations to remove, blur, or downplay hierarchical distinctions) and employees’ work attitudes, as mediated through perceptions of trust, justice, and leader-member exchange. The study intends to provide some empirical support relative to the role of symbolic-leveling symbols as a social influence process in the workplace.


In this study, the authors developed a measure of organizational status leveling by focussing on three symbols – physical space, dress, and forms of address. Data were collected from 147 employees who were enrolled in a part-time MBA program. The paper used path analysis to test the hypotheses.


Results fully supported the theoretical model except the mediating role of justice perceptions in the relationship between status-leveling symbols and affective commitment.

Practical implications

The results of the study provide guidance for design of physical workspaces and setting or reinforcing norms regarding forms of address and dress codes. Such practices need to be integrated with other high-involvement HR practices so as to create and sustain the culture desired by the organization.


The paper is the first to measure status-leveling symbols in organizations, and the first to investigate the linkages between symbolic-leveling symbols and relevant work-related outcomes.



This work was supported by the year of 2012 Research Fund of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST).


Zhang, L. and Morand, D. (2014), "The linkage between status-leveling symbols and work attitudes", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29 No. 8, pp. 973-993.



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