The Impact of Power on Advice-Taking

Topic(s): evidence based management
Publication: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (JAN 2012)
Article: Power, Competitiveness, and Advice Taking: Why the Powerful Don’t Listen
Authors: Tost, L. P., Gino, F., Larrick, R. P.
Reviewed by: Thaddeus Rada

It will come as no surprise to individuals working in I-O psychology that people, when making decisions, often have the opportunity to seek advice from others about the choice they might make. Researchers have found that a variety of factors can influence whether or not an individual will listen to such advice, including the nature of the decision to be made, the “status” of the person giving the advice, relative to the decision maker, and individual-level characteristics of the decision maker. In a recent paper, Leigh Tost and colleagues assess the impact that one of these individual-level variables has on advice taking: the perceived power that the decision maker personally feels.


In the course of a series of experiments, the researchers found that power appears to have a negative impact on advice taking, in that individuals who perceive themselves to be more powerful are less responsive to the advice of others. The researchers found this to be the case both when the advice giver was a novice, as well as when they were an expert. In contrast, while decision makers who perceived themselves to be less powerful were generally unlikely to follow the advice of novices, they were likely to follow the advice of experts.


Given the high degrees of power that many individuals in organizations may wield (e.g., executives, managers, boards of directors), understanding the ways in which these individuals handle advice is important for practitioners. Studies like the ones conducted by these authors can continue to contribute to our knowledge of these processes, ideally for the benefit of decision makers, advisors, and the people impacted by the decisions themselves.


Tost, L. P., Gino, F., & Larrick, R. P. (2012). Power, competitiveness, and advice taking: Why the powerful don’t listen. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117, 53-65.

Image credit: istockphoto/seb_ra