Seeking status is a fundamental human motive. This is no exception in organizational settings, there are numerous benefits attached to holding high-ranking roles; high status employees have better access to scarce resources, enjoy decision-making privilege, and receive more social support and compensation (e.g., higher salary, bonuses, etc.) for their performance. Furthermore, high status employees experience greater mental and physical well-being, ego satisfaction, and self-esteem compared to those placed lower in the hierarchical ladder.
Feeding itself from evolutionary theory, current research suggests that both prestige and dominance are valid strategies to pursue status in social groups. Prestige refers to status accorded to individuals who are respected for their skills, success, or expertise. By demonstrating superior task competence, prestigious employees raise the value they provide to their group and earn status in the eyes of their colleagues. Dominance, on the other hand, pertains to the use of intimidation and coercion to gain control over others. Dominant individuals typically behave in an authoritative and offensively self-assured manner so that they can influence others and get them to comply with their wishes.
Despite the fact that both strategies bestow status upon individuals, they may have different consequences for the implementer. Research shows that those following a dominance strategy to achieve higher status are socially disliked individuals who exaggerate the self and exercise influence through aggression, assertiveness, and forceful manipulation. Such individuals induce fear among their colleagues and therefore appear unfriendly and uncaring. Moreover, dominant individuals are seen as being less helpful, less cooperative and less ethical. Prestigious individuals, on the other hand, tend to be well-liked, and they are perceived as pro-socially oriented individuals who are more caring and supportive. Since they are expected to contribute to a group’s performance as well as the performance of those who learn from their expertise, they are usually liked more and viewed as more desirable interaction partners than dominant individuals.
To conclude, both dominance and prestige are status-attainment strategies that prevail in the work place, yet it seems like following a prestige strategy over a dominance strategy results in more positive relationships with the colleagues. Individuals may choose to demonstrate dominant manners to be influential, but they need to be aware that dominant acts are usually punished with social disapproval from the others. In contrast, prestige benefits the self, benefits the others and results in a friendlier working environment that is likely to foster overall satisfaction and performance among the employees in the work place.
This article is based on the literature and findings from the following sources:
Anderson, C., & Kilduff, G. J. (2009). The pursuit of status in social groups. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 295-298.
Cheng, J. T., Tracy, J. L., & Henrich, J. (2010). Pride, personality, and the evolutionary foundations of human social status. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 334-347.
Pettit, N. C., Yong, K., & Spataro, S. E. (2010). Holding your place: Reactions to the prospect of status gains and losses. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 396-401.