Hierarchy is a pervasive feature of groups and organizations. In organizations, employees are commonly ranked with different job titles; in task groups, some members are more respected than others; in meetings, some people routinely speak earlier and receive deference from others. Effectively managing these manifestations of hierarchy in order to achieve desirable outcomes is an enduring challenge for scholars and practitioners. My research contributes to overcoming this challenge by exploring the influence of hierarchy on individual and group outcomes (e.g., social networks, performance, conflict and cooperation, status attainment, well-being, etc).
Within this broad research area, I have three more-specific research streams.
Social Hierarchy & Social Networks
My first stream of research examines the implications of individuals’ subjective perceptions of informal organizational structures (e.g., status hierarchies, social networks). I study how individuals’ perceptions of where others stand in their group's status hierarchy — and the accuracy of those perceptions — shape their social networks and performance. This work extends the existing research on social hierarchy, which has tended to assume homogeneity in status perceptions, and identifies new determinants of individual performance, network formation, status achievement, and group effectiveness.
Conflict & Team Performance
My second stream of research uncovers novel factors that predict intra-group conflict (e.g., power struggles and status contests). Specifically, I examine the implications of different mental models of hierarchy for group members’ propensity for status conflict, as well as the interplay between resource scarcity and diversity in power struggles within groups. This work identifies new determinants of hierarchical conflict and builds on the research that demonstrates the detrimental consequences of that conflict.
Status vs. Power
My third stream of research explores the implications of two core distinctions between power and status. The first distinction is that status exerts a stronger influence on the self-concept than power exerts. The second distinction is that the two concepts satisfy different needs: status promises to fulfill needs of belongingness and respect, whereas power promises to fulfill needs of autonomy and control. I show that these distinctions are important in understanding the differential effects of power and status on employee well-being and group engagement.
Yu, S., & Kilduff, G. J. (in press). "Knowing where others stand: Accuracy and performance effects of individuals’ perceived status hierarchies." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Yu, S. & Blader, S. (2020). "Why does social class impact subjective well-being? The role of status and power." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, in press, 46, 331–348.
Yu, S., Greer, L.L., Halevy, N., & van Bunderen, L. (2019). "On ladders and pyramids: Hierarchy’s shape determines relationships and performance in groups." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45, 1717-1733.
Blader, S. & Yu, S. (2017). "Are status and respect different or two sides of the same coin?" Academy of Management Annals, 11, 800-824.
Greer, L.L, van Bunderen, L., & Yu, S. (2017). "The dysfunctions of power in teams: A review and emergent conflict perspective." Research in Organizational Behavior, 37, 103-124.
*Best Conference Paper Finalist at the 13th Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research Conference.
Yu, S. & Xie, Y. (2017). "Preference effects on friendship choice: Evidence from an online field experiment." Social Science Research, 66, 201-210.
Kuwabara, K. & Yu, S. (2017). "Costly punishment increases prosocial punishment by designated punishers power and legitimacy in public goods games." Social Psychology Quarterly, 80, 174-193.
Kuwabara, K., Yu, S., Lee, A., & Galinsky, A. (2016). "Status decreases dominance in the West but increases dominance in the East." Psychological Science, 27, 127-137.