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Study Proves Powerful Low-Status Jobs Lead to Conflict

Academic Paper / External content not produced by TOW Project
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In a set of studies including surveys and controlled experiments, the Harvard Business Review found that people who work at jobs that have high power but low status engage in more conflict with coworkers.

Examples of high power / low status roles are more prevalent than we might think. A ticket-taker at the airport, for example, controls access to travel but may be viewed as low status by the business travelers walking through the gates. If arguments abound at the airport, this may be one reason why.

In your organization there may be an administrative staffer low on the totem pole who controls reimbursement. According to HBR's study, this person would be more likely to engage in inter-office conflict than a manager with reimbursement power. Many of the negative qualities we project onto argumentative individuals may actually be the result of structural imbalances of power and status.

How can Christians avoid structural conflict in the workplace? Being generous and helpful on a regular basis increases someone's status. This good behavior levels the playing field and in turn decreases conflict. This is something that Christians should already be familiar with. It may be that the Harvard Business Review proved scientifically something that Jesus said in Matthew 25:40. Whatever you do for the "least of these" will be noticed by God.

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