“My Boss is Younger, Less Educated, and Has a Shorter Tenure: Status (In)congruence and Supervisor Competence Influence Subordinates’ Fairness Perceptions and Work Motivation” by Miss Huisi LI
Miss Huisi LI
Ph.D. Candidate of Management and Organizations (Johnson School of Management)
Department of Management & Entrepreneurship
Status incongruence, in which traditional characteristics of status (e.g., age, education, and tenure) associated with supervisor and subordinate roles are reversed (i.e., the supervisor is younger, less-educated, and of shorter tenure than the subordinate) is increasingly prevalent. We examine how status (in)congruence interacts with supervisors’ competence to influence subordinates’ perceptions of promotion system fairness and their subsequent work motivation. Grounded in system justification theory, we found that when the supervisor was incompetent as opposed to competent, status congruence was more likely to serve as a basis of system justification and thus enhance the perceived fairness of the promotion system (Studies 1-2). Moreover, this interaction was stronger among subordinates who expereienced low power, a known elicitor of people’s system justification motivation (Study 3). In further support of the system justification mechanism, in Study 4, in which the supervisor always was incompetent, status (in)congruence influenced the fairness perceptions of low-power but not high-power subordinates. Perceptions of promotion system fairness were positively related to work motivation. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.