Status and Groups: Volume 7


Table of contents

(16 chapters)


Pages v-vi
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Pages ix-x
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An organized social group is always a stratified social body. There has not been and does not exist any permanent social group which is ‘flat’ and in which all members are equal.—Pitirim Sorokin (1927)

Respect is an important indicator of intragroup status, and it can influence within-group behavior. Being respected by other group members indicates a positive standing within the group that is relevant to two important identity concerns: belongingness and social reputation. Belongingness refers to the extent to which a person feels included in the group, and social reputation refers to how other in-group members evaluate a person. We review a series of studies that show that respect indeed communicates information relevant to these identity concerns, and as such influences a person's sense of affiliation, self-esteem, and cooperation (all variables considered to be important for the viability of groups). In addition, we also discuss whether the source of respect (i.e., peers vs. authority), culture, and group size matter in influencing these group-related variables. Finally, some implications for research on groups are discussed.

This chapter examines how individuals’ perceptions of others’ task competence, treatment of other group members, tendency to conform, and work group identification depend on both status and identity commitment. We integrate tenets of both role identity theory and status characteristics theory in formulating propositions concerning which of multiple status attributes are utilized when assessing others’ task competence and treating other group members, when a solo low-status group member is less likely to conform with the group, and when a solo high-status group member has low identification with his or her group. Our theory development highlights the value of integrating these theories in understanding group phenomenon for both research and practice.

This chapter examines the underlying concerns people have for relative status within their group (i.e., intragroup status) and their group's relative status to that of other groups (i.e., intergroup status). I adopt a deductive approach using arguments and evidence in the cross-cultural research and literature. I begin by reviewing the basic findings in social psychology and organizational behavior literatures, which suggest that both intragroup status and intergroup status will have positive impact on important group outcomes such as people's evaluation of, and commitment to, the group. Moreover, consistent with the notion of the fishpond phenomenon, past findings also suggest that those with high-intragroup status and low-intergroup status show more group-oriented reactions than those with low-intragroup status and high-intergroup status (i.e., people prefer to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond). Next, I provide both psychological and structural reasoning to argue that the fishpond phenomenon will be less likely to emerge in collectivistic than individualistic cultures. I close by considering the implications from the cross-cultural analysis to the broader conceptual understanding of mechanisms underlying people's concerns for intragroup status vs. intergroup status in work groups and organizations.

In the current chapter, we examine people's perceptions of their place in hierarchies. We explore the complexity of these self-perceptions and show how they are susceptible to inaccuracy and bias. We examine how such inaccuracies, however, can lead to negative social consequences: Overestimating one's place can lead to collective punishment by other group members, and underestimating one's place can lead to underutilizing levers of influence, and ultimately, to losing one's social standing.

The verbal and nonverbal behaviors that individuals display (i.e., their communication styles) influence the status positions they attain in their task groups. Prior research has generally concluded that communication behaviors that convey agency (i.e., characteristics denoting intelligence, ambition, and dominance) are more effective for obtaining a high-status position in a task group than communication behaviors that convey communality (i.e., characteristics denoting warmth, sincerity, and agreeableness). The message from these prior studies is that it is more status enhancing to be smart than to be social. The objective of this chapter is to challenge this assertion and argue that in some task groups it may be more status enhancing to be social rather than to be smart. I suggest that the status benefits of particular communication styles depend on the characteristics of the group to which an individual belongs to. Thus, in contrast to prior research in this area, I argue for a more contextual approach to the study of communication styles and status conferral, focusing on how structural and process differences between groups influence how the group members’ words and actions are evaluated.

This chapter investigates the effects of gender stereotypes on expectations about expertise and task assignments. We present a theoretical model that predicts and explains the pervasive and self-reinforcing effects of gender-based stereotypes on expected knowledge and task assignments in groups. In the model, stereotypes influence expertise recognition, which influences tasks assignments. Task assignments provide group members with task experience and expertise. Expertise influences expertise recognition, making the model cyclical. Expertise gained from task experience also affects stereotypes, creating a cycle that reinforces stereotypes. We describe findings from a program of research designed to examine ways of breaking this self-reinforcing cycle, which investigates the effectiveness of various types of expertise claims made by people with expertise, that is inconsistent with stereotypical expectations. We consider the implications of our theory and data for effects of status on evaluation of expertise claims in work groups.

Two decades of research have identified a robust effect: Members of decision-making groups mention and repeat shared information that all members know more so than unshared information that a single member knows. This chapter explores the idea that processes related to member status both affect and explain information exchange in decision-making groups. First, we offer five propositions that identify information sharing patterns and their implications for high- and low-status group members. Second, we highlight three theoretical explanations for the group preference for shared information and examine how well each theory accounts for the proposed member status processes.

Social and task groups need a few high-status members who can be leaders and trend setters, and many more lower-status members who can follow and contribute work without challenging the group's direction (Caporael (1997). Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 276–298; Caporael & Baron (1997). In: J. Simpson, & D. Kenrick (Eds), Evolutionary social psychology (pp. 317–343). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Brewer (1997). In: C. McGarty, & S.A. Haslam (Eds), The message of social psychology: Perspectives on mind in society (pp. 54–62). Malden, MA: Blackwell). When groups come together without a priori status differentiation, a status hierarchy must be implemented; however, if the new members are too homogeneously status seeking, then it is not clear what will result. We argue that hierarchy will develop even in uniformly status-seeking groups, and that the social context and members’ relational characteristics – specifically, the degree to which they are group oriented rather than self-serving – will predict which status seekers succeed in gaining status. We discuss why and how a “status sorting” process will occur to award status to a few members and withhold it from most, and the consequences of this process for those who are sorted downward.

Drawing on sociological role theory, this chapter introduces and explains the distinction between cosmopolitan and local role orientations as status categories in international teams. Qualitative data from a multimethod field study conducted at a leading international development agency illustrates that the high status of cosmopolitans and locals in this setting was based on expectations that these team members would enable their teams to more effectively interpret knowledge obtained from outside sources. The possible dynamics of status rivalry and deference in teams with cosmopolitan and local membership are explored, and their implications for team performance are addressed. Thus, status in groups is viewed as both contested and contingent on the situation.

Many workers today are employed under a variety of nonstandard work arrangements, such as contract work and agency temporary work. While prior research has shown that the use of nonstandard workers can be detrimental to standard workers’ attitudes and behaviors, producing conflict between nonstandard and standard employees, that research has not shown how or why. We propose a model in which threat to status of, and accommodation by, standard workers cause negative reactions to nonstandard workers, contingent upon the competence of nonstandard workers. The model helps explain how subtle differences among seemingly similar nonstandard work arrangements can produce dramatically different challenges to work group effectiveness. Implications for the effective blending of work groups are discussed.

In many organizational settings, status hierarchies result in the conferral of privileges that are based on achievement. However, in the same settings, status may result in the bestowal of privileges that are unearned. We argue that these unearned privileges are often awarded based on ascribed characteristics, but are perceived to be achieved. We further argue that these misattributions occur because acknowledging that one has benefited from unearned advantages that are awarded in a meritocracy can be threatening to a person's self-identity. We propose that by studying unearned privileges in organizational settings, a more accurate assessment of status hierarchies may result.

When will individuals accept or reject systems that subordinate them, when will they take actions that will challenge these status hierarchies, and when will such challenges be more intense, overt, and non-normative? Research suggests that individuals often justify and maintain systems that subordinate them, yet we suggest that there are certain boundary conditions that predict when individuals will no longer accept their place in such systems. We propose a model that examines how multiple factors: A sense of power, emotions associated with power, and perceptions of the system's legitimacy and stability – predict when those in low power will act against authority or when they will act to justify and maintain such systems. We also suggest that the level and type of action taken against a hierarchy changes as more of the elements (i.e., sense of power, emotions, perceptions of the status hierarchy) of our model are present. We predict that the actions taken against hierarchies become more overt and non-normative as more of these factors are present.

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This chapter organizes the other chapters of the volume around a fundamental status-affirmation principle, namely, that status differentials generate corresponding differences in performance expectations which, in turn, produce behaviors that affirm performance expectations. The chapters in this volume elaborate that proposition by showing how information exchange, patterns of privilege, and the accuracy of power perceptions reflect or strengthen the status-affirmation process. Several chapters also suggest conditions that forestall or weaken this process such as claims to expertise and communication styles. Other chapters can be construed as offering applications of the status-affirmation principle to the performance of corporate project teams and to the relationships between standard and nonstandard employees in the workplace. Overall, the chapters reflect the strength and vitality of the tradition of work on group processes.

Publication date
Book series
Research on Managing Groups and Teams
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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