Head Above the Parapet: How Minority Subordinates Influence Group Outcomes and the Consequences They Face for Doing So

Burak Oc, Michael R. Bashshur, Celia Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research on power often treats the recipients of powerholders' decisions (i.e., subordinates) as an undifferentiated group, overlooking how their responses to powerholders' decisions might vary and how those responses might affect powerholders' later decisions. In this article, we examine the role of lone dissenting subordinates (individuals whose feedback differs from that expressed by other group members) in shaping powerholders' allocation decisions, and explore the consequences those subordinates face for their dissent. In 3 experimental studies, we show that even as a lone voice, the feedback of a dissenting subordinate influences powerholders' decisions. Powerholders make more self-interested allocations when a lone subordinate provides consistently positive feedback, even when others provide mostly negative feedback. However, powerholders regulate their allocations when a lone subordinate provides candid feedback that points out the self-interested nature of their allocations, even when others provide consistently positive feedback. We further show that lone dissenting subordinates' influence is stronger when they share a salient group membership with the powerholder (e.g., their school or political affiliation). Finally, we find that powerholders reward lone subordinates who provide them with positive feedback, but only punish lone candid subordinates if they do not share a salient group membership with them. Overall, our results suggest that subordinates who risk putting their head above the parapet can improve outcomes for their group members, and can avoid being punished for doing so, as long as they share a salient group membership with the powerholder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-945
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Volume104
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Cite this