Although we know that considerable benefits accrue to individuals with high social status, we do not know the performance effects of gaining or losing status in one's group over time. In two longitudinal studies, we measure the status positions of middle managers currently enrolled in a part-time MBA program at the beginning and end of their study group's life. In both samples, we compare the individual performance (course grades) of the students who gained or lost status to those who maintained high and low stable status positions in their groups. We find that higher status at the end of the group's life is associated with higher performance. We also find, however, that the performance of individuals who gain or lose status over time does not correspond to their final status positions. Instead, those who gain status-including those who eventually attain high status-perform worse than those who maintain high-status positions for the whole quarter. They perform no better than those in stable low-status positions throughout. Those who lose status over time actually perform as well as those who maintain high status. We interpret these results to suggest that people might trade off resources they could apply to individual performance for opportunities to enhance their status. After replicating this effect in our second sample, we identify overinvestment in increasing assertive communication and generosity as behavioral mechanisms through which individuals successfully gain status to the detriment of their own performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Strategy and Management
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
- Management of Technology and Innovation
- Resource trade-offs
- Status mobility