The social psychology of status leveling in organizational contexts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe the programs of status leveling - such as through the elimination of executive washrooms, reserved parking, and so forth - are a taken-for-granted feature of many workplace involvement and quality improvement programs, yet no prior research has investigated the presumed effects. Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual paper enumerates devices commonly used to level status in organizations, and presents a number of propositions intended to capture the major effects. The paper draws on extant literatures from social psychology, sociology, and organizational theory to account for processes and effects of leveling. Findings: Leveling devices lead to several proximate outcomes: increased cross-status interaction and contact, literal blurring of status, role flexibility, and low power distance perceptions. These in turn mediate the relation between leveling and several broader organizational outcomes, including distributive justice based upon equality, community, communication, and empowerment. Factors moderating the effects of leveling are explored. Research limitations/implications: While the salutary effects of leveling tend to be taken for granted, it is possible to specify how leveling generates specific behavioral, attitudinal, and performance related outcomes. The model should be empirically tested. Practical implications: The findings provide managers with a fine-grained understanding of this important set of organizational practices. Originality/value: No prior scholarship has focused on this most important topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-104
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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