A new research from the University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management has revealed that individuals with power and influence: like the wealthy are more inclined to blame others for having faults and are less disturbed by stories of inequality and prejudice.
A study printed in Social Psychological and Personality Science describes power as a tool to control valuable means.
Moreover, the study discovers that people in seats of power and influence are more prone to embrace a “choice mindset” which refers to the concept that everyone has a choice, therefore, the people with less power than them must have choices too.
This mindset drives highly powerful individuals to blame others if they work poorly more make them more liable to punish the people below them.
How did the researchers find out?
The results from the research were obtained from three different studies and the researchers replicated the findings in three distinct settings.
The first study was carried out by a survey which consisted of 363 members of the general public gathered from Prolific. The participants were asked to fill in two surveys, where one was told to be unrelated to the study and about a human resource issue at the university.
The survey disclosed that their academic department was considering giving an administrative assistant a bonus even though they had not completed a big project due to prioritizing something different.
The participants who had more power chose no bonus for the assistant, claiming the excuses had no value.
The second study was done through Amazon Mechanical Turk comprising of 393 participants who were assigned to be supervisors and subordinates in performing various tasks. Although the selection of the participants for the two roles was random, the supervisors were told they deserved it, and the subordinated they were assigned.
In the study, the two groups evaluated the performance of an unknown individual who made repeated mistakes while working on tasks. Again, this study verified that participants with more power as supervisors showed less empathy and gave harsher punishments as compared to the subordinates.
The third study was conducted in a lab with UC San Diego undergraduates and reflected the second study. The primary difference was that both supervisors and subordinates knew that they would judge the rank of the subordinate and the target had fewer options. The results from the first two studies were the same as participants that had more power and gave more blame and suggested more punishment.
Research’s contribution to fair public policies and workplace settings :
This research’s finding is important for the betterment of public policy and the workplace environment.
The authors of the study said, “policymakers are in a position of power and privilege and may be less sensitive to the disadvantages of their constituents. This is especially important as we come out of the pandemic when there are big discussions in the political domain on pulling back on unemployment benefits, or rent assistance.”
“If you are in a position of power, you may assume people are choosing to stay home and not work and they can make better choices. However, you may need to think much more carefully about how many choices citizens have and if you are missing constraints they face”, authors further added.
They also addressed that managers should be conscious of how many more choices they have than their subordinates and their possible inclination to think others have the same choices they do, particularly in cases where employees make mistakes.
However, this process can bring more supervisors to hold discussions with employees and allow supervisors and people in authority to be more aware of their circumstances because sometimes lack of choice and limitations are invisible to others, who are not in the same position or circumstance.