Monday, May 28, 2012
When Hierarchy Helps?
Richard Ronay, Katherine Greenway, Eric Anicich, and Adam Galinsky have produced a new study titled, "The Path to Glory Is Paved With Hierarchy: When Hierarchical Differentiation Increases Group Effectiveness." Chris Shea writes about it in this weekend's Wall Street Journal. The scholars primed some people to think of a time when they had high power, while others were primed to think of an occasion when they wielded low power. Still others were not primed at all. In a cooperative task, the mixed groups outperformed those with folks only from one of the three conditions. The results suggest that a power hierarchy seems to improve productivity. Interestingly though, the results do not hold for other kinds of tasks. These results are consistent with another study by Galinsky, in which he found that NBA teams with larger salary disparities outperform those with more equal pay. Again, those results suggest a power hierarchy improves team effectiveness. We have to take these results with a grain of salt though. First, the type of task does matter. Second, this study examines "informal" hierarchies within teams. It does not examine formal hierarchies within larger, more complex organizations. Most importantly, we should not interpret the results to mean that efforts to flatten organizations are ill-advised. While some hierarchy may have benefits (it helps to have some who are clearly in charge), many organizations have such rigid hierarchies that many negative effects ensue.