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It turns out that equality may not be the best policy … at least when it comes to work. That’s because a new study has found that teams with a built-in hierarchy outperformed groups where each person held an equal amount of power.
The study found that groups with an equal distribution of power among all workers experienced more conflict, reduced differentiation in roles and less coordination and integration within the group. This is because, without a hierarchy of power, the researchers found that group members jostle for power amongst each other. This occurs thanks to what the researchers called the need for a natural pecking order within groups.
"We found that a clear hierarchy, division of labor and patterns of deference reduce conflict, facilitate coordination and ultimately improve group productivity (in groups with hierarchies)," said Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics and decision in management at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a researcher on the study. "On the other hand, when there are too many leaders or too few followers, group performance suffers."
More simply put, the researchers, who included Galinsky, Katharine Greenaway of University of Queensland and Eric Anicich and Richard Ronay of Columbia University, said: "When power is distributed, intragroup conflicts decrease while coordination and productivity increase."
With that pecking order in place, groups not only had more well-defined roles, but they were more productive as well. That productivity was the result of the coordination that groups with well-defined leadership structures and hierarchies had, according to the researchers. For this reason, the researchers recommend that groups associated with everything ranging from business to sports be sure to have a clear hierarchy in place to lead the group.
"Despite the overt appeal of egalitarian social structures, there remains an enduring implicit preference for hierarchy," Ronay said.
These findings were published online in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research was based on responses from more than 100 undergraduates.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.