Young Waitress at the Indiana Café


All I’m going to say is this: don’t anger the waitress!
In a new study, researchers at USC, Stanford and the Kellogg School of Management have found that individuals in roles that possess power but lack status have a tendency to engage in activities that demean others. According to the study, “The Destructive Nature of Power without Status,” the combination of some authority and little perceived status can be a toxic combination.

Social hierarchy, the study says, does not on its own generate demeaning tendencies. In other words, the idea that power always corrupts may not be entirely true. Just because someone has power or, alternatively, is in a “low status” role does not mean they will mistreat others. Rather, “power and status interact to produce effects that cannot be fully explained by studying only one or the other basis of hierarchy.”

One way to overcome this dynamic, according to the authors, is to find ways for all individuals, regardless of the status of their roles, to feel respected and valued. The authors write: “…respect assuages negative feelings about their low-status roles and leads them to treat others positively.”

Opportunities for advancement may also help. “If an individual knows he or she may gain a higher status role in the future, or earn a bonus for treating others well, that may help ameliorate their negative feelings and behavior,” Fast said. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a character sketch about someone who has power but no status. How do they abuse their power?

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever abused power in order to make yourself feel better?

Art Prompt: Demeaning
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the phenomenon of power without status and how they can respond.

Photo Credit: luigi morante on Flickr

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