Much of today’s work is completed in work groups or teams. An important aspect of group dynamics is a group’s informal status hierarchy, which refers to how groups are organized based on the different levels of status that group members possess (e.g., different levels of respect, admiration, and informal influence).
New research (Yu et al., 2022) introduces the concept of status acuity, which is an individual’s ability to accurately perceive the status hierarchies of groups. Across several studies, the researchers create and provide evidence for the validity of a measure of status acuity. They also explore how an individual’s level of status acuity relates to group-level outcomes.
EFFECTS OF GROUP MEMBER STATUS ACUITY
The researchers found that among groups, status acuity among group members was associated with having less status conflict. This refers to conflict among group members about their positions in the group’s status hierarchy. In turn, less status conflict was related to higher group performance. In other words, when group members have an accurate understanding of their group hierarchy, we might expect better group performance.
The researchers also explored how the minimum level of individual status acuity within a group impacts group-level outcomes. They found that the minimum level of status acuity within a group was also associated with status conflict and group performance; Groups with higher minimum levels of status acuity fared better than groups with lower minimum levels of status acuity. This means that when considering the group member with the lowest ability to perceive hierarchy, the better that person’s ability, the better the group will fare.
These results have practical implications for organizations wishing to maximize the effectiveness of work groups or teams. For example, the researchers note that managers may benefit from knowing and considering employees’ status acuity when forming or rearranging groups of employees. In particular, managers may want to avoid assigning low-status-acuity employees to group tasks that are prone to status conflict. The researchers also suggest that organizations and researchers may wish to build on this work and develop training designed to improve status acuity for individual employees.
Yu, S., Kilduff, G. J., & West, T. (2022). Status acuity: The ability to accurately perceive status hierarchies reduces status conflict and benefits group performance. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.