Working Papers

Consensus and Contribution

Shared Status Hierarchies Promote Group Success


Recent research on status and group productivity has highlighted that status hierarchies encourage contributions to group efforts by rewarding contributors with enhanced status. However, that and other work has typically assumed that status hierarchies are widely agreed-upon among group members. Here we challenge this assumption, proposing that groups vary in their level of hierarchical consensus and that when groups fail to achieve high agreement, the status rewards motivating contributions are attenuated, undermining group performance. Results of two studies of task groups support our claims. We observed that status disagreements were quite common, particularly those in which two group members both viewed themselves as higher in status than the other, and that more dominant individuals were most likely to engage in these types of disagreements. Further, we found that such status disagreements led to diminished group performance and that this effect was driven by reduced contributions from the group members involved. These findings suggest that status consensus can vary substantially across groups, and that groups that are able to successfully coalesce around agreed-upon status hierarchies benefit from increased contributions and performance.