Editor's Pick - December 2023
Impact of subordinates’ creativity on supervisor undermining: A social dominance perspective
Some years ago, I trained as a systems and family counselor. If there is one takeaway from this experience, it’s that: there is a complex, interconnected dynamic among the members of a system, such as the workplace. Thus, when I read Min Zhang's article, Impact of subordinates’ creativity on supervisor undermining: A social dominance perspective, which deals with the interaction between subordinates' characteristics and supervisor behaviour, the text resonated with me.
When supervisors undermine employees, for instance, by belittling their ideas, withholding important information, or spreading rumours about them, it negatively impacts employee work motivation and increases their turnover intentions. But are some employee traits more likely to elicit such undermining behaviour, and what is the potential mechanism?
Min Zhang and colleagues ask such questions. They hypothesize that subordinates who exhibit high creativity would cause their superiors to feel a status threat, which in turn would lead to undermining behavior. Moreover, they postulate that this indirect effect via status threat would be stronger for those supervisors who have high-status concerns. The authors tested these ideas by conducting a survey with 223 employees and their supervisors. The supervisors rated subordinates' creativity and status concern, and a month later perceived status threat, while the subordinates rated supervisors' undermining behavior. The results supported the author's hypotheses.
While the overall tone of the findings may be perceived as ‘dark’, as the findings suggest that beneficial and desirable behavior, such as creativity, may have negative consequences for the individual, it is also possible to focus on the ‘light’ aspect: low-status concern mitigates this negative effect of creativity on status threat and subsequent undermining behavior by supervisors. For me, this speaks to the need to nurture egalitarian workplaces (and societies) where creativity can be fostered without detrimental consequences for the individual. After all, when we realise our creative potential, the impact is felt beyond the workplace, and in the larger societal system.
Ana Stojanov | Associate Editor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal
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