A Review of Status Characteristics Theory Essay

Status Characteristics Theory There are several human behavior characteristics that should be evaluated when studying the behavior of organizations. In studying how human behavior effects the organization as a whole, a look at the status characteristics theory is warranted. This theory states that there are differences in status characteristics that create status hierarchies within groups (Robbins & Judge, 2009). The term “status” refers to a position or rank in relation to others (Merriam-Webster, 2010). In simpler terms, people assign a status to individuals within groups based on differing reasons.

The status that is assigned to an individual can have both positive and negative effects. This theory is important to understand because it is inherent in human behavior and may have wide spreading effects on organizational goals and commitments. The status characteristics theory states that status is derived from one of three sources. The sources are identified as (Robbins & Judge, 2009): 1)The power a person yields over others 2)A person’s ability to contribute to a group’s goals 3)An individual’s personal characteristics

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Beginning with the first source, the power a person yields over others, reveals that people within an organization that have the ability to control the organization’s functions have distinct status. For instance, a manager who schedules and provides direction has a distinct status as a decision maker. The organization as whole generally assigns a higher status to people who are of a higher position. The next source that is addressed by the theory involves a person’s ability to contribute. People who are considered experts and those that perform at higher level than the organization overall are usually assigned a higher status.

Peers may view someone in this category as being more valuable and therefore less likely to suffer consequences of workplace turnover. Lastly, the theory addresses an individual’s personal characteristics, such as age, beauty, race, gender as well as attributes such as intelligence, charisma and of course, wealth. People who possess characteristics that peers tend to envy or enjoy are generally assigned a higher status. It stands to reason that subordinates within an organization will assign or even defer a higher status to a person who is superior in position.

The power source of status does not seem to rely as much on physical attributes or a mastery of skills, but more so on a subordinate’s view of the level of influence and effectiveness they hold over them. If a personality conflict occurs or the subordinate observes behavior of a superior to be inconsistent with the organizational norms, a feeling of distrust may develop but the subordinate still recognizes the superior’s status. In contrast, if a person who derives status from their abilities or their personal characteristics behaves similarly, peers are not as likely to afford them the higher status classification.

With all three sources of the theory considered, personal behavior can affect status level in some way. In a study conducted in 2005, researchers evaluated how a woman’s physical attractiveness impacted social status and international power. The study theorized that attractive women would given a higher status and would be more successful that woman with lesser desired physical attributes. The study found that a positive correlation exists between beauty and status (Haas & Gregory, 2005).

Another study conducted in 2000 took a look at how status affects double standards. The study concluded that persons who have a higher status are not as likely to suffer under double standards and that women tend to have stricter standards placed upon them than men (Foschi, 2000). From the studies discussed, having a lower status can place a person at a disadvantage. However, motivated people who are viewed as having a lower status by themselves and others may be persuaded towards goals of achievement and self improvement to obtain a higher status.

The motivating factors can either be extrinsic or intrinsic rewards. The status characteristics theory focuses on how people are assigned personal status. People make mental determinations about others through stereotypes, first impressions and physical attributes. It is inherent to human nature to categorize each other in terms of leaders and followers, the strongest, the fastest, and the prettiest are generally placed in a higher status than those with less talent and average appearance. The theory falls hort of defining the innate feelings or emotions that drives people to make distinctions such as status but appears accurate on the surface. References Foschi, M. (2000). Double standards for competence: theory and research. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 21-42. Haas, A. , Gregory, Jr. , S. (2005). The impact of physical attractiveness on women’s social status and interactional power. Sociological Forum, 20 (3), 449-471. Robbins, S. , Judge, T. (2009). Organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall


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