ArticlePDF Available

Professional Status and Norm Violation in Email Collaboration


Abstract and Figures

Purpose: Status is a central aspect of teamwork relationships and successful collaboration in teams, both online and offline. Status group membership and status perception shape behavioural expectations and norm perceptions of what is appropriate but despite their importance have been neglected in previous research. Status effects are of special interest in online collaboration, e.g. via email, where no immediate feedback or non-verbal/paraverbal communication and direct observation is possible. Methodology: An experimental scenario study with two different professional status groups (lecturers and students) tested status effects on causal attributions, intergroup bias, and emotional and collaborative responses to perceived norm violations in emails. Findings: Results overall showed three key findings: a ‘black-sheep-effect’ with harsher negative attributions for same status members, more aggression and less cooperation towards lower status senders, and stronger (negative) emotional reactions towards high status senders. Originality/value: The findings are important for managing professional online communication because negative personal attributions, strong emotions and aggressive behaviours can increase team conflict, lead to mistakes and generally undermine performance.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Professional status and norm
violation in email collaboration
Carolyn M. Axtell
Management School, The University of Shefeld, Shefeld, UK
Karin S. Moser
Business School, London South Bank University, London, UK, and
Janet McGoldrick
Pzer Inc. Global Financial Services, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose Status is a central aspect of teamwork relationships and successful collaboration in teams, both
online and ofine. Status group membership and status perception shape behavioural expectations and norm
perceptions of what is appropriate, but despite their importance have been neglected in previous research.
Status effects are of special interest in online collaboration, e.g. via email, where no immediate feedback or
non-verbal/paraverbal communication and direct observation is possible. The purpose of this study is to
address this gap in research.
Design/methodology/approach An experimental scenario study with two different professional
status groups (lecturers and students) tested status effects on causal attributions, intergroup bias and
emotional and collaborative responses to perceived norm violations in emails.
Findings Results overall showed three key ndings: a black-sheep-effectwith harsher negative
attributions for same status members, more aggression and less cooperation towards lower status senders
and stronger (negative) emotional reactions towards high status senders.
Originality/value The ndings are important for managing professional online communication because
negative personal attributions, strong emotions and aggressive behaviours can increase team conict, lead to
mistakes and generally undermine performance.
Keywords Status, Causal attribution, Email communication, Emotional reactions, Inter-group bias,
Norm perception
Paper type Research paper
Although there are many other digital media available today with chat and texting
functions, e-mail is still one of the most common methods of workplace communication
(Derks and Bakker, 2010). While email is an established communication medium at work,
there is still ambiguity regarding its formality, and email communication norms are not
rmly set compared to letters (with their high degree of formality) and texting or instant
messaging which are recognised as having low formality. Email is inuenced by those other
forms of communication but perceived as somehow in betweenwhich leaves much room
for different interpretations and expectations about norms of formality and appropriateness
(Byron and Baldbridge, 2007). There is still a lack of understanding regarding how the
specic properties of email as a medium interact with central organisational structures such
as status to impact on work attitudes and behaviours. In particular, the role of social norms
relating to professional status (which is one of the most fundamental ways of signalling
group membership at work) has been neglected in the past. This paper aims to address this
gap by examining the role of status and social norms in online interactions with an
status and
norm violation
Received 30 July2019
Revised 8 October2019
Accepted 8 October2019
Team Performance Management:
An International Journal
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/TPM-07-2019-0083
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
experimental scenario study. An experimental design allows systematic testing of the effect
of email formality for members of different status groups with a randomised between-
subjects design. In the following section of the paper, we review the relevant literature on
email communication, social norms and status groups that underpin our hypotheses.
Social norms and email communication
Social norms are expressions of shared values and beliefs by a group, organisation or
society at large that shape subsequent expectations of what is appropriate in a given
situation and inuence both attitudes and behaviours (Bicchieri, 2006;Smith and Postmes,
2009). Email norms are not static and are inuenced by the proliferation of newer
communication media such as instant messaging, texting and micro-blogging which can be
seen as aligning particularly with the values and expectations of the younger generation and
are considered to be less formal than other forms of communication (Colley et al.,2004;
Gilson et al.,2014). As a result of these other forms of communication a range of shortcuts
have developed such as number or letter substitutions for words (e.g. 2instead of toor
RUinstead of are you) and no sign-off or address (Kim et al.,2007). The appropriateness
of when to use different levels of formality is not clear across the different digital media,
including email, and has led to calls for a greater focus on contextual factors and a closer
look at who is involved in the social interaction (Ducheneaut and Watts, 2005;Stephens et al.,
Email, in common with other text based digital media, is a fairly lean medium with fewer
social cues available compared to face to face interactions, which means there is less
contextual and social information available to interpret the intentions of the sender (Sproull
and Kiesler, 1986). The lack of individuating cues about the sender can lead to more extreme
and inaccurate impressions when evaluating the message (Walther, 2007). Negative
impressions of others in a virtual environment have been shown to negatively affect
collaborative behaviours (Cramton, 2001;Stephens et al., 2009). Evaluation of others in
electronic communication is also inuenced by social identity processes (Lea et al.,2001)as
specied in the SIDE model.
The social identity model of de-individuation effects (SIDE, Postmes et al.,1998) proposes
that visual anonymity induces a state of de-individuation in which group membership
becomes more salient. This situation induces greater social inuence and adherence to
group norms (Postmes et al., 2001) where deviance from the expected norms of behaviour is
noticeable (Lea and Spears, 1992). Norm violations occur when an individuals behaviour
falls outside of the range of behaviour that is considered appropriate for that particular
social context (Levine et al., 2000) and can result in negative emotional, cognitive and
behavioural reactions (Wilson, 2005). Depending on the perceived degree of violation and
harm, emotional reactions are likely to be triggered such as anger (Frijda, 1986;Roseman,
1984) and behaviour may extend from lack of cooperation with the perpetrator to more
aggressive or confrontational behaviours (Mackie et al., 2000). For instance, norm-
incongruent emails have been found to inuence a superiors willingness to comply with a
subordinates request in an email (Stephens et al.,2011). Although not examining norms,
Mackie et al. (2000) found that offensive actions by the out-group were linked to anger and
an impulse to confront or attack theout-group. Cognitive attributions relating to whether the
norm violation is judged to be caused by internal individual factors or external contextual
factors are also likely to be affected (Kelley, 1973). Given the poor contextual information
available in lean media like email, negative personal attributions about the sender (such as
laziness or incompetence) are more likely (Cramton, 2001;Cramton et al., 2007). Negative
personal attributions have been found to lead to counterproductive behaviours such as
increased conict and coalition forming (Cramton, 2001) which has important implications
for organisational effectiveness and harmony. Thus, we expect that perceived email
formality norm violations will have a negative impact on emotional, cognitive and
behavioural responses as hypothesised:
H1. Perceived email norm violation is related to negative emotional and attributional
reactions towards the sender and less favourable collaborative intentions.
Status and group membership
The role of hierarchical status has been rather neglected in research on electronic
communication. However, reactions to email norm violations are likely to be inuenced by
the hierarchical status as well as group membership of the sender and recipient. Indeed,
status is intrinsically related to norms that dene in-groups and out-groups at work (Piazza
and Castellucci, 2014). Hierarchical status is used as a formal means of categorisation within
organisations and regulates group processes and behaviour at work by assigning duties,
rights, and responsibilities to different status groups (Cowen, 2012). Thus, hierarchical
status within organisations is related to the concept of power, which refers to the extent to
which someone is able to inuence the behaviour of others in line with their own intentions
(French and Raven, 1959;Tiedens et al., 2000). A given status denes the structure in which
the use of power is acceptable within organisations, with those of higher status tending to
have greater power (Bunderson and Reagans, 2011;Sell et al., 2004).
Status has a strong inuence on behaviour during interpersonal communication (Giles
et al.,1987;Gregory and Webster, 1996) and there may be different expectations of what is
appropriate depending on the status of the recipient and the sender (Tiedens et al.,2000). For
instance, Postmes et al. (2000) found that individuals tend to alter their email formality when
writing to higher status individuals. Moreover, superiors may expect more formal email
communication from subordinates and react negatively if expectations are not met
(Stephens et al.,2011). However, past research has not explored the reactions when the same
email behaviour is received by someone of the same or higher status, and yet this reaction
may be quite different and likely to affect collaborative relations across different levels
within an organisation in various ways.
Social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986) can help to explain the different reactions
to norm violation when the sender and recipient belong to either the same or different
groups. For instance, individuals tend to overlook transgressions made by others who share
their social identity (Lea and Spears, 1992). Thus, in-group favouritism may be shown in
relation to email norm violations, so that reactions remain positive or neutral. Being part of
the in-group offers some protection against negative judgements. In contrast, email
violations by out-group members may be subject to more negative reactions (Postmes et al.,
2001) and the emotional and cognitive responses may be more severe and less forgiving for
those who do not share the same social identity. Thus, when people belong to the same
group we might expect to see in-group favouritism (a tendency to overlook norm violations
by in-group members) and out-group bias (a stronger negative reaction towards norm
violation by outgroup members).
However, hierarchical status is likely to moderate this effect such that those in a low
status out-group will be treated more harshly by those from a high status group. This is
because high status group members have a tendency to feel more comfortable when
communication patterns reect the social order (Tiedens and Fragale, 2003). Moreover,
according to appraisal theories of emotion (Frijda, 1986;Roseman, 1984) those in a strong
position with resources are more likely to have an anger response to offensive behaviour
status and
norm violation
from others. Thus, high status recipients are less likely to tolerate communication norm
violations from low status individuals and more likely to see it as a lack of respect. Norm
violations in emails to high status recipients are thus likely to induce stronger negative
emotions, more negative internal attributions, and lower collaborative intentions towards low
status senders. In line with this, Stephens et al. (2009,2011) found that emails that did not
match lecturer formality expectations had a negative effect on their reactions. Their studies
examined reactions to email communication from students to lecturers, and also students
opinions of emails sent to lecturers, and found more negative reactions from the lecturers.
However, they did not examine the opposite effect, where someone of lower status receives an
email from a higher status individual. Yet, it is important to examine the reactions to
communications from those of higher status because positive interactions with superiors has
a profound effect on perceptions of the organisation and the employees relationship with it
(Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002). We therefore investigate the reactions of lower status
recipients as it has been neglected in previous research on email communications.
For low status recipients, we might expect less negative emotional and cognitive
(attributional) reactions towards senders of high status, and a stronger likelihood of
retaining collaboration intentions towards them. Those of low status may feel less power to
do anything about poor email communications from high status individuals and this may
create a tension between their immediate reaction and the options open to them for dealing
with it. Moreover, higher standards tend to be used to judge those who are considered to be
competent, such as lecturers (Biernat et al., 2010) and so it may be unexpected for someone of
high status within the organisation to act incompetently by violating norms. They may be
judged more leniently at rst, until more evidence is gathered (Biernat et al.,2010), but there
will likely be some confusion about the competence and intentions of the high status sender
until greater clarity is achieved. Such tensions and confusions create discomfort and
cognitive dissonance that need to be resolved (Stone and Cooper, 2001).
Dissonance is a drive state that arouses the need to reduce the discomfort and resolve the
inconsistency (Festinger, 1957) by changing onescognitions (Leippe and Eisenstadt, 1999)
or interpreting the event differently (Simon et al.,1995). To reduce the cognitive dissonance,
lower status individuals may therefore actively choose to dampen the reaction they have or
interpret the event in a more favourable light; in effect giving the high status sender the
benet of the doubt. Thus, reactions from those of lower status towards higher status
senders might be more generous and more similar to their own favourable in-group
evaluations. We would therefore expect to see a weaker relationship between norm
violations and reactions if inappropriate emails are sent from someone of higher status to a
lower status recipient. Hence, we expect the status of the sender and recipient to complicate
the relationship between norm violations and outcomes, in such a way that there will be
harsher reactions towards lower status senders by high status recipients and a more
forgiving reaction towards high status senders from low status recipients:
H2. The relationship between norm violation perception and reactions will be
moderated by the status of the sender and recipient. Specically, we expect there
will be a stronger relationship between norm violation and reactions (with more
negative reactions experienced) when the sender is low status and the recipient is
high status. In contrast, the relationship between norm violation and reactions will
be weaker (and similar to more favourable in-group reactions) when the sender is
high status and recipient low status.
We test these hypotheses within a higher education institution as this is a context where
there are clear status demarcations between lecturers (high status) and students (low status).
A balanced design is used where participants either receivethe email from someone of the
same or different status. We also consider the inuence of prociency with relevant
communications technologies (email and text-messaging) as greater familiarity with these
are likely to affect email formality norm expectations (Extejt, 1998). Age and ethnicity may
also impact on results in terms of perceptions and reactions as younger people tend to have a
greater tendency to use less formal communications like text messaging (Stephens et al.,
2009) and those in low power distance cultures (such as the UK) may be less deferential to
those of higher status (Loh et al.,2010).
Negative emotions are generally more of a concern at work than positive ones as they
might lead to conicts. Anger is thus an important emotional reaction to include in this
study on norm violation and what might be perceived as offensive behaviour (Kam and
Bond, 2009). To enable testing for differential effects we have also included the positive
emotion of happiness as being treated with unexpected informality might invoke a positive
emotional response. Negative personal attributions tend to increase in virtual environments
where little is known about the situation of the sender (Cramton, 2001). Such cognitions can
be very damaging to work relations which is why this study focuses on personal
attributions, both negative (laziness) and positive (competence). For the behavioural
intentions, the focus is on compliance with the email request as a positive, collaborative
response as well as a negative and potentially conictual intention to confront the sender.
Design and participants
A 2 (recipient status) 2 (sender status) fully balanced experimental between-subjects
design was used in which members of actual professional status groups (students vs
lecturers) either received an email from an in-group member (same status) or an out-group
member (different status). Two online surveys (one with student as sender and one with
lecturer as sender) were developed and lecturer and student participants were randomly
allocated to one of the conditions. Participants (177 students and 53 lecturers) were from a
British University. The age range of the student sample was from 18 to 76 with a mean age
of 26 (SD = 9.37), 69.5 per cent were female and 82 per cent were of white British ethnicity.
The lecturer samples age ranged from 26 to 68 with a mean age of 43 (SD = 11.33); 75
per cent were female, and 100 per cent were white British.
The survey asked the participant to consider an email vignette in which the sender was
requesting a meeting with the recipient to discuss some research. Students can conduct
research projects during their studies and some might approach potential supervisors to
discuss their ideas. Lecturers might also offer research opportunities. The instructions just
before the vignette specied the status of the sender (either a lecturer or a student).
Otherwise, the email vignette in each condition was exactly the same as detailed below:
How r u? Im getting involved in a project you might be interested in.
I would really like to discuss it if you are around this week. Free 2 meet tomorrow?
status and
norm violation
The vignette contained a number of grammatical errors and formality norm violations
including the address (Hi”–with no name), texting short cut (ruinstead of are you), a
spelling error (disscus), number substitution (2instead of to), incomplete sentence and an
informal sign off (Cheers). After reading the email, the participants were asked to rate their
reactions to the email on a range of measures as described below.
Perceived norm violation. Participants rated the email on its formality, address, shortcuts,
length, language, content, spelling, sign off and other aspects on a seven-point scale from
completely unacceptableto completely acceptable. Responses were reverse scored and
summed so that a high score represented high norm violation perception. Internal
consistency of the scale was good (
= 0.90).
Emotions. Participants were asked how the email vignette had made them feel using
both a negative and positive measure of emotion. Anger (consisting of three items angered,
outraged, annoyed) and Happiness (consisting of four items happy, delighted, pleased,
amused), were measured using an adapted version of the measure used by Gordijn et al.
(2006). Responses were given on seven-point scales from absolutely notto absolutely.
Internal consistency was good (Anger:
= 0.82; Happiness:
= 0.79).
Attributions. An adaptation of a measure used by Lea and Spears (1992) was used to
determine the attributions participants made about the sender of the email. Participants
were asked to rate the sender on two attributional items: a negative personal attribution
lazinessand a positive personal attribution competence.Responses were given on a
seven-point scale from noneto a great deal (much more than some people).
Collaborative intentions. A positive (compliance) and negative (confrontation)
collaborative intention were measured. Compliance was measured using items that Stephens
et al. (2009) used [which is adapted from that used by Mottet et al. (2004)] and indicated
participantswillingness to comply with the senders request in the email (right now) and
similar requests by them in the future (in future). Responses were given on a seven-point
scale from very unwillingto very willing, achieving internal consistency of
= 0.94.
Confrontation tendency was measured using a scale from Mackie et al. (2000) measure of
action tendencies. The measure consisted of three items: confront,opposeand argue
withthe sender. Responses were given on a seven-point scale from not at allto very
much. Internal consistency of the measure was good (
= 0.83).
Status. Status was coded as 1 lecturer/0 student.
Demographic/control measures. Control measures included age, gender (0 = Male, 1 =
Female), and ethnicity (0 = White British; 1= Other). Familiarity with electronic text-based
forms of communications was measured by asking respondents the frequency with which
they used email and text messaging on a seven-point scale from neverto very
frequently several times a day. These were used as single items in the analysis.
As can be seen from Table I, a clear norm violation was perceived by most respondents
(M=4.4,SD =1.4). In line with H1 norm violation perceptions were positively correlated
with negative outcomes: Anger (r= 0.46; p= 0.001); laziness (r= 0.19; p= 0.006); and
confrontation (r= 0.25; p= 0.001), and negatively correlated with happiness (r=0.53; p=
0.001); competence (r=0.21; p= 0.002); and compliance (r=0.59; p= 0.001). The status
of the recipient was also related to outcomes. High status recipients tended to perceive a
stronger norm violation (r= 0.14; p= 0.046) and responded with more anger (r= 0.17; p=
0.010) and less happiness (r=0.14, p= 0.040) than low status recipients. Higher status
Study variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Age 30 12
Gender 0.7 0.46 0.04
Ethnicity 0.1 0.34 0.09 0.03
Email frequency 5.6 0.69 0.33** 0.04 0.02
Texting freq 5.2 1.1 0.43** 0.20** 0.03 0.07
Status sender 0.4 0.49 0.07 0.09 0.11 0.08 0.01
Status recipient 0.2 0.42 0.58*** 0.06 0.22** 0.31*** 0.26*** 0.06
Norm violation 4.4 1.4 0.01 0.02 0.24*** 0.05 0.04 0.00 0.14*
Happiness 3.1 1.3 0.06 0.02 0.11 0.02 0.10 0.28*** 0.14* 0.53***
Anger 2.9 1.5 0.01 0.04 0.22 0.06 0.07 0.06 0.17* 0.46*** 0.17*
Competence 3.3 1.3 0.07 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.03 0.00 0.08 0.21** 0.13* 0.03
Laziness 4.6 1.6 0.03 0.06 0.07 0.00 0.09 0.07 0.04 0.19** 0.05 0.17* 0.19**
Compliance 3.6 1.8 0.06 0.05 0.17* 0.04 0.05 0.23** 0.05 0.59*** 0.53*** 0.35*** 0.14* 0.23***
Confrontation 2.1 1.3 0.04 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.10 0.25*** 0.06 0.41*** 0.04 0.04 0.14*
Notes: *p<0.05; **p<0.01; ***p<0.001
Table I.
Correlations of study
status and
norm violation
senders also received happier (r= 0.28, p= 0.000) and more compliant responses (r= 0.23;
p= 0.001). Unsurprisingly, age correlated with status of the recipient, with those of higher
status tending to be older (r= 0.58; p= 0.000).
Interaction eects
To examine H2; whether sender and recipient status had an inuence on the relationship
between norm violation perception and attributions, emotional and behavioural reactions,
three-way interactions were tested using regression analysis. Following Dawson (2014) the
independent variables and controls were centred and the three-way interaction term
calculated by multiplying norm violation, sender status and recipient status together. To
test the three-way interaction, the individual predictors and two-way interactions between
each pair of predictors also needed to be controlled for. Age, gender, ethnicity, and email and
texting frequency were controlled for (see Table II for a summary of analyses).
Signicant three-way interactions were found for the attributions (see Figure 1). For the
laziness attribution interaction (
= 0.29; R
=0.13,F(12,206) = 2.59,p= 0.011) we found
Table II.
regression analysis
Controls and IVs
Attributions Emotions Collaborative intentions
Laziness Competence Anger Happiness Confrontation Compliance
Ethnicity 0.046 0.003 0.064 0.012 0.095 0.080
Age 0.064 0.024 0.160 0.028 0.158 0.112
Gender 0.081 0.008 0.051 0.035 0.043 0.031
Email frequency 0.026 0.120 0.077 0.011 0.001 0.008
Text frequency 0.106 0.032 0.067 0.076 0.001 0.016
Status sender 0.016 0.115 0.162* 0.269*** 0.149* 0.241***
Status recipient 0.145 0.029 0.384*** 0.060 0.460*** 0.145
Norm violation 0.323*** 0.417** 0.265*** 0.373*** 0.179 0.561***
Send*Recip 0.077 0.035 0.273** 0.011 0.414*** 0.058
Viol*Recip 0.032 0.185 0.012 0.053 0.024 0.001
Viol*Send 0.298 0.302 0.201* 0.181* 0.098 0.003
Viol*Send*Recip 0.294* 0.307*** –– –0.086
0.131 0.113 0.300*** 0.390*** 0.161*** 0.407
Adj R
0.081 0.061 0.262 0.358 0.117 0.372
Notes: *p<0.05; **p<0.01; ***p<0.001; Send = Sender; Recip = Recipient; Viol = Norm Violation, NB:
Regressions for anger, happiness and confrontation were re-run excluding the three-way interaction to
allow the two-way interactions to be interpreted
Figure 1.
between norm
violation, sender
status and
recipient status 2
Low Violation
High Violation
Sender Laziness
(1) High Sender
Status, High
Recipient Status
(2) High Sender
Status, Low
Recipient Status
(3) Low Sender
Status, High
Recipient Status
(4) Low Sender
Status, Low
Recipient Status
Low Violation
High Violation
Sender Competence
(1) High Sender
Status, High
Recipient Status
(2) High Sender
Status, Low
Recipient Status
(3) Low Sender
Status, High
Recipient Status
(4) Low Sender
Status, Low
Recipient Status
that recipients in both high and low status groups were harsher towards their own in-group
when norm violation was perceived (see Figure 1- Slopes 1 and 4 on rst graph). Perceived
norm violation was related to higher laziness perceptions except when the sender was of a
higher status than the recipient was. Indeed, slope differences [using Dawson and Richters
(2006) test] were found between Slope 2 (the high sender/low recipient status slope) and all
other slopes (Slope 1: t= 3.609, p= 0.000; Slope 3: t=2.165, p= 0.032; and Slope 4: t=3.373;
p= 0.001) indicating a signicant difference in laziness attributions when the sender is of
higher status than the recipient. Thus, although there was a signicant three-way interaction
(as expected in H2) it was not exactly of the form expected, as the high status group did not
demonstrate the severest reaction towards low status senders. However, consistent with H2
leniency was applied from low status recipients towards high status senders.
A similar effect was seen for the attribution of competence, where the three-way
interaction was also signicant (
=0.35; R
= 0.11, F(12,204) = 2.17,p= 0.007). The
second graph in Figure 1 illustrates that although competence attributions were similar
irrespective of the level of norm violation for the outgroup pairings (Slopes 2 and 3), there
was a stronger negative reaction within in-groups when high norm violation is perceived
(Slopes 1 and 4). Slope differences were signicant between Slope 2 (high status sender/low
status recipient) and two other slopes: 4 (low status sender and recipient; t= 3.33, p= 0.001)
and 1 (high status sender and recipient; t=2.16, p= 0.032). However, again we did not see
the harsher reaction towards low status senders from high status recipients predicted in H2.
Signicant three-way interactions were not found for anger (
=0.08;SE = 0.36;p= 0.41),
happiness (
= 0.13; SE =0.29,p= 0.18), confrontation (
=0.11; SE =0.35;p= 0.30) or
compliance (
=0.09; SE =0.41,p= 0.35). However, signicant two-way interactions were
found for all these outcomes except compliance. Thus, the analysis was re-run excluding the
three-way interaction for these reactions so that the two-way interactions could be interpreted.
Signicant two-way interactions between sender and recipient status for both anger
=0.27, SE= 0.43,p= 0.003) and confrontation (
=0.41, SE = 0.42, p= 0.000)
conrmed the importance of status (albeit independent of norm violation perception). For
instance, anger was shown towards low status senders while there was almost no difference
in anger reactions from either students or lecturers towards high status senders (Figure 2).
Figure 2.
interactions with
status and/or norm
Low Sender Status High Sender Status
Low Sender Status High Sender Status
Low Violation High Violation
Low Violation High Violation
status and
norm violation
An in-group protective bias was demonstrated within the low status group (with the lowest
levels of anger shown towards low status senders by low status recipients simple slope t=
2.38, p= 0.02) whereas high status recipients felt more anger towards the low status group
(simple slope t=2.09, p= 0.04). This demonstrates in-group favouritism and out-group
bias for the emotion of anger but with a differential effect of status consistent with H2 where
an out-group bias was only observed from high status recipients towards low status
The form of the two-way interaction for confrontation intention was very similar to that
for anger. Figure 2 illustrates that there was a greater tendency amongst the high status
recipients towards confronting the low status senders (simple slope t=3.62, p= 0.00) and
there was in-group favouritism/protection within the low status group, with low status
recipients less likely to confront their own group (simple slope t= 2.00, p= 0.05). The
predicted effect of status in H2 was therefore supported to some degree, although the level of
perceived norm violation does not inuence this relationship as expected.
Signicant two-way interactions between norm violation and sender status were also
found for happiness and anger (
=0.18, SE = 0.11,p= 0.02;
= 0.20, SE = 0.13,p= 0.01
respectively). The form of the interaction for happiness indicated that happiness was higher
in general when low norm violation was perceived, and happiness was at its highest
towards high status senders when norm violation was low (simple slope t=7.21, p= 0.00).
This may indicate greater pleasure experienced when a high status sender treats a recipient
with such informality and familiarity. However, when norm violation is perceived, similarly
low levels of happiness are experienced towards senders of either status. The interaction for
anger was slightly different such that low anger is felt towards all senders when norm
violation is low but when norm violation is high, more anger is shown towards higher status
senders (simple slope t= 5.95, p= 0.00) perhaps because higher standards are used to judge
higher status senders so there is a more intense reaction to their norm violation.
The current study contributes to an important gap in research on how status and social
norms inuence communication and collaboration over email. Understanding how the
expectations and norms across different hierarchical levels and professional group
memberships relate to reactions and responsiveness to email communications is immensely
important as miscommunications and conicts can be very costly. Our ndings indicate that
the status of the recipient and sender does make a difference to how email communication
norm violations are attributed, with harsher reactions occurring within in-groups and more
lenient attributions towards high status senders from low status recipients. When it comes
to negative emotional and behavioural intentions (anger and confrontation), however, the
low status senders receive harsher evaluations from high status recipients irrespective of the
level of norm violation. In contrast, we nd that the emotional reaction towards high status
senders does depend on the level of norm violation perceived (with a more extreme anger
response if high violation is perceived and a more extreme happiness response when low
violation is perceived). Thus, the relationship between norm violation and these outcomes is
complicated by the inclusion of status in ways that were not entirely predicted.
The predicted harsher reaction from high status recipients towards lower status senders
is not seen across the board. Where this pattern is observed, norm violation perception has
little to do with it, and so this may represent a general response to email communications
from high status recipients towards low status senders (e.g. perhaps they tend to feel
annoyed and confrontational towards email requests in general from lower status senders).
Moreover, a novel nding is that in-group favouritism is only found amongst the low status
group (for the negative reactions of anger and confrontation) and only if norm violation
perception is not involved. Again, this may represent a more generalised protective response
within a group that has less power against such aggressive reactions. Thus, the status
effects that were predicted do not depend on level of norm violation but rather only occur in
the context of aggressive and confrontational inter-status responses. This has implications
for theory in this area, as certain responses seem to be more generalised across different
levels of status and occur independent of any norm violation.
Somewhat surprisingly, when it comes to causal attributions regarding email norm
violation, the harshest reactions are towards the in-group at both levels of status, reminiscent of
ablack sheep effect(Marques et al., 1988). A black sheep effect can occur when deviation
from socially acceptable norms reects poorly on the in-group, threatening their positive
identity (Marques et al., 2001) and results in the deviant in-group members being derogated.
Such effects usually occur when the norm is considered very important and is strongly held
(Frings et al., 2010) which suggests that email norms of the sort investigated here are more
developed and more strongly held than originally assumed. It may also be that these email
norms, and the personal attributions they stimulate when violated, are important in relation to
impression management within organisations, and both high and low status individuals wish
to protect their image and not appear lazy or incompetent. Certainly, research suggests that
positive-controllable attributions are important for developing positive impressions (Silvester
et al., 2002). Especially those of high status appear to derogate in-group members that
jeopardise their image and status, which may be an attempt to reduce dissonance created by
negative personal attributions towards their own group.
In contrast, high status senders appear to be treated quite leniently by the low status
recipients when it comes to laziness attributions, with high status offering some protection
against negative attributions when email norm violation is perceived. This reaction may
also represent an attempt at cognitive dissonance reduction in a situation where such norm
violation would be unexpected and where there is little power to act against the sender.
Thus, the recipient either attempts to trivialise their interpretation of the violation itself (i.e.
see it as less important) or they modify their reaction to the violation. This effect may be
heightened within an online environment where there is less information and certainty
about the intention of the sender (especially from a different group) but relatively more
information available about onesown in-group. As a result, high status senders may be
given the benet of the doubtuntil more evidence is available to make a more certain
attribution (Biernat et al.,2010). These effects are consistent with dissonance reduction
strategies identied in previous research (Leippe and Eisenstadt, 1999;Simon et al.,1995).
On the other hand, from an emotional perspective, high status senders are subject to
more extreme reactions dependent on the level of norm violation. Greater happiness is
observed when receiving the email from high status senders, but only when low norm
violation is perceived. This might indicate amusement at receiving such an email from a
lecturer, or greater delight at being treated with such familiarity by someone of high status.
However, if norm violation is perceived, then greater anger is expressed towards high status
senders, which may indicate greater hurt and perceived harm from this treatment,
consistent with predictions from appraisal theories of emotion (Frijda, 1986;Roseman, 1984).
Despite the different cognitive and emotional responses to norm violation, the
collaborative intention to comply was only inuenced by the status of the sender.
Irrespective of the status of the recipient or the level of norm violation perceived, greater
compliance intentions were expressed towards those of higher status. Those of higher
hierarchical status have greater power (Sell et al.,2004) and although their actions may
cause harm, there may be little choice other than to complywith their request.
status and
norm violation
Thus, overall the ndings suggest that hierarchical status matters when considering reactions
to emails within organisations, also sometimes independently of perceived norm violation.
However, there is not a one-size-ts-alleffect of status and the impact depends on the reaction
being investigated. Theories that predict social identity effects within online communications
(such as SIDE; Postmes et al., 1998), emotional responses to harm (such as appraisal theories of
emotion; Frijda, 1986;Roseman, 1984) and attributions (Kelley, 1973) need to take hierarchical
status into account and their complex inter-play need to be considered within reactions to email
communication. These ndings are important, as communications from those of higher status
(and even same status) can strongly affect the perceptions and experiences of employees
(Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002) and there is the danger of negatively impacting the collaborative
environment within the organisation, especially for members of lower status groups.
Of course, these ndings need to be interpreted in light of the studys limitations. The sample
size is relatively small thus reducing the statisticalpower,butdespitethiswewereabletond
important differences and interaction effects, which suggests that these effects are quite strong.
Another limitation is that this study occurred only within one organisational context. Whilst the
participants were real group member participants from an organisational context in which there
are clear demarcations between the low and high status groups (students and lecturers), this sort
of distinction may be less evident in organisations where hierarchical positions are subject to
change and are more ambiguous. Future studies might therefore seek to expand the types of
organisations and also examine different communications media to determine if similar effects
occur. Moreover, whilst we focused on the most likely emotional, cognitive and behavioural
responses to email norm violations, it could be that other emotions, attributions and behavioural
intentions also play a role. For instance, other emotions such as embarrassment or shame might
also be inuential particularly in relation to the black sheep effect and in an intercultural context
where face-savingmight be important, so could be investigated in future studies.
Despite these limitations, the current study contributes to the literature by
demonstrating the complex role that status can have on different reactions to email
formality norm violations. The ndings are important for practice because they suggest that
reactions to online communications can affect the collaborative environment and that this
may be particularly pronounced within organisations where there are collaborations
between people from different hierarchical levels (which is most organisations). Such issues
may be especially important for impression management for those of lower status wishing
to collaborate with those of higher status, but also those of high status who have an interest
in preserving their reputation. Moreover, within the current study the formality norm
violations might be consideredfairly mild and are of such a degree that the sender might not
even realise they had made any error, and yet the reactions are fairly strong. Having agreed
and shared expectations of email behaviour across different status levels and subgroups
might therefore be especially important in organisations. Thus, overall the ndings in this
study offer some intriguing insights and raises further questions that can form the impetus
for future research on the topic of status andonline communications.
Bicchieri, C. (2006), The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms, Cambridge
University Press, New York, NY.
Biernat, M., Fuegen, K. and Kobrynowicz, D. (2010), Shifting standards and the inference of
incompetence: effects of formal and informal evaluation tools,Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, Vol. 36 No. 7, pp. 855-868, doi: 10.1177/0146167210369483.
Bunderson, J.S. and Reagans, R.E. (2011), Power, status, and learning in organizations,Organization
Science, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 1182-1194, doi: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0590.
Byron, K. and Baldbridge, D.C. (2007), Email recipientsimpressions of senderslikability: the
interactive effect of nonverbal cues and recipientspersonality,Journal of Business
Communication, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 137-160, doi: 10.1177/0021943606297902.
Colley, A., Todd, Z., Bland, M., Holmes, M., Khanom, N. and Pike, H. (2004), Style and content in
e-mails and letters to male and female friends,Journal of Language and Social Psychology,
Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 369-378, doi: 10.1177/0261927X04266812.
Cowen, A.P. (2012), An expanded model of status dynamics: the effects of status transfer and interrm
coordination,Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 1169-1186, doi: 10.5465/
Cramton, C.D. (2001), The mutual knowledge problem and its consequences for dispersed
collaboration,Organization Science, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 346-371, doi: 10.1287/orsc.12.3.346.10098.
Cramton, C.D., Orvis, K.L. and Wilson, J.M. (2007), Situation invisibility and attribution in distributed
collaborations,Journal of Management, Vol. 33 No. 4, p. 525, doi: 10.1177/0149206307302549.
Dawson, J.F. (2014), Moderation in management research: what, why, when, and how,Journal of
Business and Psychology, Vol. 29, pp. 1-19, doi: 10.1007/s10869-013-9308-7.
Dawson, J.F. and Richter, A.W. (2006), Probing three-way interactions in moderated multiple
regression: development and application of a slope difference test,Journal of Applied
Psychology, Vol. 91 No. 4, pp. 916-917, doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.917.
Derks, D. and Bakker, A.B. (2010), The impact of e-mail communication on organizational life,
Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, Vol. 4 No. 1, available at:
Ducheneaut, N. and Watts, L.A. (2005), In search of coherence: a review of e-mail research,Human-
Computer Interaction, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 11-48, doi: 10.1080/07370024.2005.9667360.
Extejt, M.M. (1998), Teaching students to correspond effectively electronically,Business
Communication Quarterly, Vol. 61 No. 2, pp. 57-67, doi: 10.177/108056999806100208.
Festinger, L. (1957), A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.
French, J.R.P. and Raven, B.H. (1959), The bases of social power, in Cartwright, D. (Ed.), Studies in
Social Power, Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI,pp. 150-167.
Frijda, N.H. (1986), The Emotions, Cambridge University Press, London.
Frings, D., Abrams, D., de Moura, G.R. and Marques, J. (2010), The effects of cost, normative support,
and issue importance on motivation to persuade in-group deviants,Group Dynamics: Theory,
Research, and Practice, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 80-91, doi: 10.1037/a0016092.
Giles, H., Mulac, A., Bradac, J.J. and Johnson, P. (1987), Speech accommodation theory: the rst decade
and beyond, in McLaughlin, M.L. (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 10, Sage, Newbury Park, CA,
pp. 313-348.
Gilson, L.L., Maynard, M.T., Jones Young, N.C., Vartiainen, M. and Hakonen, M. (2014), Virtual teams
research: 10 years, 10 themes, and 10 opportunities,Journal of Management,doi:10.1177/
Gordijn, E.H., Yzerbyt, V., Wigboldus, D. and Dumont, M. (2006), Emotional reactions to harmful intergroup
behaviour,European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 15-30, doi: 10.1002/ejsp.296.
Gregory, S.W. and Webster, S. (1996), A nonverbal signal in voices of interview partners effectively
predicts communication accommodation and social status perceptions,Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, Vol. 70 No. 6, pp. 1231-1240,doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.6.1231.
Kam, C.C. and Bond, M.H. (2009), Emotional reactions of anger and shame to the norm violation
characterizing episodes of interpersonal harm,British Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 48
No. 2, pp. 203-219, doi: 10.1348/014466608X324367.
Kelley, H.H. (1973), The processes of causal attribution,American Psychologist, Vol. 28 No. 2,
pp. 107-128, doi: 10.1037/h0034225.
status and
norm violation
Kim, H., Kim, G.J., Park, H.W. and Rice, R.E. (2007), Congurations of relationships in different media:
FtF, email, instant messenger, mobile phone, and SMS,Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 1183-1207, doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00369.x.
Lea, M. and Spears, R. (1992), Paralanguage and social perception in computer-mediated communication,
Journal of Organizational Computing, Vol. 2 Nos 3/4, pp. 321-341, doi: 10.1090/10919399209540190.
Lea, M., Spears, R. and de Groot, D. (2001), Knowing me, knowing you: anonymity effects on social
identity processes within groups,Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 27 No. 5,
pp. 526-537, doi: 10.1177/0146167201275002.
Leippe, M.R. and Eisenstadt, D. (1999), A self-accountability model of dissonance reduction: multiple
modes on a continuum of elaboration, in Harmon-Jones, E. and Mills, J. (Eds), Cognitive
Dissonance: Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology, American Psychological
Association, Washington, DC, pp. 201-232.
Levine, T.R., Anders, L.N., Banas, J.,Baum, K.L., Endo, K., Hu, A.D.S. and Wong, N.C.H. (2000), Norms,
expectations, and deception: a norm violation model of veracity judgments,Communication
Monographs, Vol. 67 No. 2, pp.123-137, doi: 10.1080/03637750009376500.
Loh, J., Smith, J.R. and Restubog, S.L.D. (2010), The role of culture, workgroup membership, and
organizational status on cooperation and trust: an experimental investigation,Journal of Applied
Social Psychology, Vol. 40 No. 12, pp. 2947-2968, doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00688.x.
Mackie, D.M., Devos, T. and Smith, E.R. (2000), Intergroup emotions: explaining offensive action
tendencies in an intergroup context,Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 79 No. 4,
pp. 602-616, doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.79.4.602.
Marques, J., Abrams, D. and Serodio, R. (2001), Being better by being right: subjective group dynamics
and derogation of in-group deviants when generic norms are undermined,Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81 No. 3, pp. 436-447, doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.81.3.436.
Marques, J., Yzerbyt, V. and Leyens, J. (1988), The black sheep effect: extremity of judgments towards
ingroup members as a function of group identication,European Journal of Social Psychology,
Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 1-16, doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2420180102.
Mottet, T.P., Beebe, S.A., Raffeld, P.C. and Pausel, M.L. (2004), The effects of student verbal and
nonverbal responses on teachersliking of students and willingness to comply with student
requests,Communication Quarterly, Vol.52 No. 1, pp. 27-38, doi: 10.1080/01463370409370176.
Piazza, A. and Castellucci, F. (2014), Status in organization and management theory,Journal of
Management, Vol. 40 No. 1,pp. 287-315, doi: 10.1177/0149206313498904.
Postmes, T., Spears, R. and Lea, M. (1998), Breaching or building social boundaries? SIDE effects of
computer-mediated communication,Communication Research, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 689-715, doi:
Postmes, T., Spears, R. and Lea, M. (2000), The formation of group norms in computer mediated
communication,Human Communication Research, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 341-371, doi: 10.1111/
Postmes, T., Spears, R., Sakhel, K. and de Groot, D. (2001), Social inuence in computer-mediated
communication: the effects of anonymity on group behavior,Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, Vol. 27 No. 10, pp. 1243-1254, doi: 10.1177/01461672012710001.
Rhoades, L. and Eisenberger, R. (2002), Perceived organisational support: a review of the literature,
Journal of Applied Psychology,Vol. 87 No. 4, pp. 698-714, doi: 10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.698.
Roseman, I.J. (1984), Cognitive determinants of emotion: a structural theory, in Shaver, P. (Ed.),
Review of Personality and Social Psychology, Emotions, Relationships, and Health, Vol. 5, Sage,
Beverly Hills, CA, pp. 11-36.
Sell, J., Lovaglia, M.J., Mannix, E.A., Samuelson, C.D. and Wilson, R.K. (2004), Investigating conict,
power and status within and among groups,Small Group Research, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 44-72, doi:
Silvester, J., Anderson-Gough, F.M., Anderson, N.R. and Mohammed, A.R. (2002), Locus of
control, attributions and impression management in the selection interview,Journal of
Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 75 No. 1, pp. 59-76, doi: 10.1348/
Simon, L., Greenberg, J. and Brehm, J.W. (1995), Trivialisation: the forgotten mode of dissonance
reduction,Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 68 No. 2, pp. 247-260, doi: 10.1037/
Smith, L.G.E. and Postmes, T. (2009), Intra-group interaction and the development of norms which
promote inter-group hostility,European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 130-144,
doi: 10.1002/ejsp.464.
Sproull, L. and Kiesler, S. (1986), Reducing social context cues: electronic mail in organizational
communication,Management Science, Vol. 32 No. 11, pp. 1492-1512, doi: 10.1287/mnsc.32.11.1492.
Stephens, K.K., Cowan, R.L. and Houser, M.L. (2011), Organizational norm congruency and interpersonal
familiarity in e-mail: examining messages from two different status perspectives,Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 228-249, doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01537.x.
Stephens, K.K., Houser, M.L. and Cowan, R.L. (2009), R U able to meet me: the impacts of students
overly casual email messages to instructors,Communication Education, Vol. 58 No. 3,
pp. 303-326, doi: 10.1080/03634520802582598.
Stone, J. and Cooper, J. (2001), A self-standards model of cognitive dissonance,Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp.228-243, doi: 10.1006/jesp.2000.1446.
Tajfel, H. and Turner, J.C. (1986), The social identity theory of intergroup relations, in Worchel, S. and
Austin, W.G. (Eds), Psychology of Intergroup Relations, Nelson-Hall, Chicago, pp. 7-24.
Tiedens, L.Z., Ellsworth, P.C. and Mesquita, B. (2000), Stereotypes about sentiments and status:
emotional expectations for high- and low-status group members,Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 560-574, doi: 10.1177/0146167200267004.
Tiedens, L.Z. and Fragale, A.R. (2003), Power moves: complementarity in dominant and submissive
nonverbal behavior,Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84 No. 3, pp. 558-568, doi:
Walther, J.B. (2007), Selective self-presentation in computer-mediated communication: hyperpersonal
dimensions of technology, language and cognition,Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 23
No. 5, pp. 2538-2557, doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2006.05.002.
Wilson, E.V. (2005), Persuasive effects of system features in computer-mediated communication,
Journal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 161-184, doi:
About the authors
Carolyn M. Axtell is a Senior Lecturer in Work Psychology at Sheeld University Management School. Her
research interests are related to the impact of new technologies and new ways of working on employees.
Karin S. Moser is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour and the Director of Research at the
Business School, London South Bank University. Her research focuses on cooperation and knowledge
sharing in social dilemmas, motivation for prosocial behaviour at work and the inuence of digital
technologies, cultural background and social norms on collaboration. Karin S. Moser is the
corresponding author and can be contacted at:
Janet McGoldrick is a past student of the University of Sheeld, where she completed her MSc in
Work Psychology. She currently works for Pzer Inc. Global Financial Services in Dublin, Ireland.
For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
Or contact us for further details:
status and
norm violation
... Specifically regarding e-mail communication, the norms that affect how people communicate are not static, and expectations about formality are ambiguous (Axtell et al. 2019). In a professional context, previous research has suggested that online therapists, for instance, could use emoticons to communicate feelings (Pollock 2006). ...
... This could also be the case for the e-mail consultation despite it being a more professional platform. Professional e-mail communication is not static, and norms adjust on a continuous basis (Axtell et al. 2019;Pollock 2006). When the e-mail consultations we analysed were written, the GPs had been obliged to offer e-mail consultations for six to ten years, and the medium was thus not entirely new. ...
... As mentioned previously in the article, there are no set rules regarding expectations about formality in professional e-mails (Axtell et al. 2019). However, even though the Danish setting is very informal compared to other countries (Danish patients will e.g. ...
It is well-known that non-verbal cues are essential in doctor–patient communication. As doctor–patient communication is turning increasingly digital and written, it becomes relevant to explore the role of non-verbal cues in such communication genres. One more recent genre is the doctor–patient e-mail consultation. Research has found that while patients like e-mail consultations, they also miss facial expressions, eye contact, etc. In this study, we explored the different ways in which Danish GPs use non-verbal cues in e-mail consultations. We analysed 633 e-mail consultations written by 22 GPs. We applied the concept of oralization , which includes the use of emoticons and non-standard use of grammar and spatial arrangement. We found that the dominant types of oralizations were non-corrected spelling errors and lack of attention to capitalization. Overall, GPs used a limited number of other non-verbal cues. We discuss how these findings relate to norms of formality and professional context.
... In general, psychological safety is acknowledged as mediating the relationship between communication and team effectiveness (Akan et al., 2020). Also, negative personal attributions or strong, aggressive emotions and behaviours may increase team conflict, resulting in mistakes and reduced performance (Axtell et al., 2019). Another exploratory case study contributes the source of conflict to the cultural differences and to the nature of ICT communication while adding work interdependence among critical factors, as the so-called "task conflict" is examined (Kankanhalli et al., 2007). ...
Full-text available
Purpose Global virtual teams are omnipresent entities within the majority of international companies. Ongoing research debate presents multiple open questions on the impact of virtuality. Especially whether virtual teams can be as effective as their co-located counterparts. This paper aims to address the performance aspects of fully and semi-virtual in comparison with co-located teams. Design/methodology/approach This paper presents quantitative research based on computer logged data sets tracking the behaviour of individuals in multiple virtual, semi-virtual and co-located teams. The analysis features a comparison of key performance indicators and evaluates teamwork results while putting the observations into the context of virtual organisational behaviour. Findings Findings based on a sample of 42,168 work items from 48 teams of various virtuality levels show that co-located teams still outperform the virtual ones despite technological advances. This comes as an important reminder and practical implication during times of rapid shift towards virtual work in recent years. Originality/value Drawn conclusions are valuable, mainly due to the nature of data set extraction (unbiased and error-free source) from a real business environment with a unique combination of various cross-cultural compositions. The sample includes teams from the same company working on similar tasks, allowing control for many factors limiting previously published papers on virtual team performance.
This article presents a systematic literature review of how norms are used in a sample of 436 articles in the human resource management (HRM) field. In exploring how norms are theorized, applied, and operationalized, the article identifies four main thematic fields in which norms are commonly used: culture, diversity, labor market, and work–life. The article makes three main contributions to the existing literature. First, it reveals a pervasive inconsistency in the use of norms across HRM research such that any assumption of a “norm of norms”—that is, consensus on the meaning of norms in HRM—is erroneous and in need of critical reflection. Second, the review offers a typology that outlines four similarities and differences in how HRM research employs norms. Finally, the authors propose a norm-critical research agenda as a relevant basis for future critical and reflexive enquiry into norms in both HRM theory and practice.
Full-text available
Ten years ago, Martins, Gilson, and Maynard reviewed the emerging virtual team (VT) literature. Given the proliferation of new communication technologies and the increased usage of work teams, it is hardly surprising that the last decade has seen an influx of VT research. In this review, we organize the last 10 years of empirical work around 10 main themes: research design, team inputs, team virtuality, technology, globalization, leadership, mediators and moderators, trust, outcomes, and ways to enhance VT success. These themes emerged inductively because they either represent areas with consistent results, a large proliferation of studies, or a grouping of studies and results that differed from where the literature stood a decade ago. Following the review section, we turn our attention toward 10 opportunities for future research: study setting, generational impacts, methodological considerations, new and emerging technologies, member mobility, subgroups, team adaptation, transition processes and planning, creativity, and team member well-being. Some of these opportunities emerged from our review of the extant VT literature; others are grounded in the broader team literature, are unresolved theoretical issues, or were linked to insights discussed within the VT practitioner literature. Within the domain of VTs, technological innovation continues to advance the way team members interact and enable individuals who previously could not be connected to work together as a team. Accordingly, VTs provide great promise to organizations, and the field continues to be rich with research opportunities for the coming decade(s).
Full-text available
Status is a pervasive construct in the organizational literature, and a recent surge in interest in the topic testifies to its potential as a field of study. In this article, we review the existing studies on status, and we propose an integrative classification framework based on two distinct dimensions: the level of analysismacro, meso, or microand the role status hierarchies play in extant research. We do so with a view to clarifying the status construct, differentiating it from the cognate concept of reputation, and clearly stating the ways in which status dynamics could inform organizational scholars and their research efforts. We conclude by highlighting underdeveloped theoretical intersections and suggesting potentially fruitful directions for future inquiry.
The authors reviewed more than 70 studies concerning employees' general belief that their work organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being (perceived organizational support; POS). A meta-analysis indicated that 3 major categories of beneficial treatment received by employees (i.e., fairness, supervisor support, and organizational rewards and favorable job conditions) were associated with POS. POS, in turn, was related to outcomes favorable to employees (e.g., job satisfaction, positive mood) and the organization (e.g., affective commitment, performance, and lessened withdrawal behavior). These relationships depended on processes assumed by organizational support theory: employees' belief that the organization's actions were discretionary, feeling of obligation to aid the organization, fulfillment of socioemotional needs, and performance-reward expectancies.
Two studies examine complementarity (vs. mimicry) of dominant and submissive nonverbal behaviors. In the first study, participants interacted with a confederate who displayed either dominance (through postural expansion) or submission (through postural constriction). On average. participants exposed to a dominant confederate decreased their postural stance, whereas participants exposed to a submissive confederate increased their stance. Further, participants with complementing response,, (dominance in response to submission and submission in response to dominance) liked their partner more and were more comfortable than those who mimicked. In the second study, complementarity and mimicry were manipulated, and complementarity resulted in more liking and comfort than mimicry. The findings speak to the likelihood of hierarchical differentiation.
Three vignette studies examined stereotypes of the emotions associated with high- and low-status group members. In Study 1a, participants believed that in negative situations, high-status people feel more angry than sad or guilty and that low-status people feel more sad and guilty than angry. Study 1b showed that in response to positive outcomes, high-status people are expected to feel more pride and low-status people are expected to feel more appreciation. Study 2 showed that people also infer status from emotions: Angry and proud people are thought of as high status, whereas sad, guilty, and appreciative people are considered low status. The authors argue that these emotion stereotypes are due to differences in the inferred abilities of people in high and low positions. These perceptions lead to expectations about agency appraisals and emotions related to agency appraisals. In Study 3, the authors found support for this process by manipulating perceptions of skill and finding the same differences in emotion expectations.
Organizational status is shaped by a firm's choice of exchange partners and the material outcomes of relationships with them. Prior research on status dynamics has shown that status is transferred between exchange partners. Seeking partners of similar or higher status minimizes status losses due to this transfer effect. However, the material outcomes of exchange relationships are often dependent upon interfirm coordination, making it also important to understanding changes in organizational status. Research on deference in hierarchical relations suggests that the status characteristics that minimize transfer are not necessarily the ones that best facilitate interfirm coordination. Thus, I propose that partners' relative status has a more complex relationship to status change than previously conceptualized.
This paper reviews the scholarly literature on the effects of social hierarchy---differences in power and status among organizational actors---on collective learning in organizations and groups. We begin with the observation that theories of organization and group learning have tended to adopt a rational system model, a model that emphasizes goal-directed and cooperative interactions between and among actors who may differ in knowledge and expertise but are undifferentiated with respect to power and status. Our review of the theoretical and empirical literatures on power, status, and learning suggests that social hierarchy can complicate a rational system model of collective learning by disrupting three critical learning-related processes: anchoring on shared goals, risk taking and experimentation, and knowledge sharing. We also find evidence to suggest that the stifling effects of power and status differences on collective learning can be mitigated when advantaged actors are collectively oriented. Indeed, our review suggests that higher-ranking actors who use their power and status in more “socialized” ways can play critical roles in stimulating collective learning behavior. We conclude by articulating several promising directions for future research that were suggested by our review.
An attribution theory perspective was applied in an experiment designed to explore the process of message acceptance on the part of prospective sales clients. Two-sided messages, incorporating unexpected negative information, were presented in contrast to more traditional one-sided appeals. Results indicate that the former approach stimulated a condition of expectancy disconfirmation leading to greater and more accurate recall of the sales presentation along with a more favorable product attitude when the presentation contained objective product information as opposed to intangible claims.