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Professional status and norm violation in email collaboration

Carolyn M. Axtell (Management School, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Karin S. Moser (Business School, London South Bank University, London, UK)
Janet McGoldrick (Pfizer Inc. Global Financial Services, Dublin, Ireland)

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 12 December 2019

Issue publication date: 20 March 2020




Status is a central aspect of teamwork relationships and successful collaboration in teams, both online and offline. Status group membership and status perception shape behavioural expectations and norm perceptions of what is appropriate, but despite their importance have been neglected in previous research. Status effects are of special interest in online collaboration, e.g. via email, where no immediate feedback or non-verbal/paraverbal communication and direct observation is possible. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in research.


An experimental scenario study with two different professional status groups (lecturers and students) tested status effects on causal attributions, intergroup bias and emotional and collaborative responses to perceived norm violations in emails.


Results overall showed three key findings: a “black-sheep-effect” with harsher negative attributions for same status members, more aggression and less cooperation towards lower status senders and stronger (negative) emotional reactions towards high status senders.


The findings are important for managing professional online communication because negative personal attributions, strong emotions and aggressive behaviours can increase team conflict, lead to mistakes and generally undermine performance.



Axtell, C.M., Moser, K.S. and McGoldrick, J. (2020), "Professional status and norm violation in email collaboration", Team Performance Management, Vol. 26 No. 1/2, pp. 1-15.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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