In a recent paper, “Differentiating the Effects of Status and Power: A Justice Perspective,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Stern School of Business associate professor of management and organizations Steven Blader and co-author Ya-Ru Chen of Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management examined the effect of power and status on how fairly individuals act towards others.
Across a series of studies, the authors demonstrated that those who regard themselves as higher in power treat others less fairly, as compared to those who regard themselves as lower in power. In contrast, those who regard themselves as higher in status treat others more fairly, as compared to those who regard themselves as lower in status. In other words, although power and status are often thought of as two sides of the same coin, they in fact have opposite effects on the fairness of people’s behavior.
These results have important implications for managers and for organizations more generally, since they inform our understanding of why managers treat those they interact with (including, importantly, their subordinates) fairly or unfairly. The authors suspect that the tendency by organizations to emphasize things that make managers feel more powerful (e.g., headcount, budget control, bonuses) actually leads those managers to treat their subordinates less fairly.