A hole in the ladder

How to reconcile the benefits of equality with the merits of hierarchy

Simon A. Moss, Samuel G. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

During recent decades, many researchers have advocated the benefits of equality over hierarchy. These scholars, for example, have argued that income should be uniform across the organization, layers of management should be dismantled, and that employees should be granted opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Yet, many complications of equality have also been unearthed. For instance, variability in income is sometimes positively associated with performance, employees tend to prefer organizations that are characterized by many tiers of management, and employee participation in all key decisions can undermine efficiency. Managers, therefore, must introduce measures that temper these complications. To identify suitable measures, managers need to understand how different dimensions of equality impinge on the determinants of wellbeing and performance. To fulfill this need, this paper first distinguishes three dimensions of equality: participation, authority, and income. Next, this paper invokes a variety of theories-from compensatory control to dominance complementarity-to understand how each dimension of equality affects the core needs of individuals, as defined by self-determination theory. Equality of authority tends to impede all three needs: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Equality of participation and equality of income, however, foster all three needs. One exception is that equality of income may diminish competence on tasks that demand the application of established principles rather than intuition. This framework clarifies the designs and practices of organizations that may optimize wellbeing and enhance performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-645
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Management Journal
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Equality
Income
Participation
Well-being
Authority
Managers
Complementarity
Employee performance
Autonomy
Employees
Self-determination theory
Intuition
Employee participation

Cite this

@article{bd5c70d915c24705a493eb53a853e9e8,
title = "A hole in the ladder: How to reconcile the benefits of equality with the merits of hierarchy",
abstract = "During recent decades, many researchers have advocated the benefits of equality over hierarchy. These scholars, for example, have argued that income should be uniform across the organization, layers of management should be dismantled, and that employees should be granted opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Yet, many complications of equality have also been unearthed. For instance, variability in income is sometimes positively associated with performance, employees tend to prefer organizations that are characterized by many tiers of management, and employee participation in all key decisions can undermine efficiency. Managers, therefore, must introduce measures that temper these complications. To identify suitable measures, managers need to understand how different dimensions of equality impinge on the determinants of wellbeing and performance. To fulfill this need, this paper first distinguishes three dimensions of equality: participation, authority, and income. Next, this paper invokes a variety of theories-from compensatory control to dominance complementarity-to understand how each dimension of equality affects the core needs of individuals, as defined by self-determination theory. Equality of authority tends to impede all three needs: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Equality of participation and equality of income, however, foster all three needs. One exception is that equality of income may diminish competence on tasks that demand the application of established principles rather than intuition. This framework clarifies the designs and practices of organizations that may optimize wellbeing and enhance performance.",
keywords = "Equality, Hierarchy, Self-determination, Wellbeing",
author = "Moss, {Simon A.} and Wilson, {Samuel G.}",
year = "2014",
month = "8",
doi = "10.1016/j.emj.2013.09.006",
language = "English",
volume = "32",
pages = "636--645",
journal = "European Management Journal",
issn = "0263-2373",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "4",

}

A hole in the ladder : How to reconcile the benefits of equality with the merits of hierarchy. / Moss, Simon A.; Wilson, Samuel G.

In: European Management Journal, Vol. 32, No. 4, 08.2014, p. 636-645.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - A hole in the ladder

T2 - How to reconcile the benefits of equality with the merits of hierarchy

AU - Moss, Simon A.

AU - Wilson, Samuel G.

PY - 2014/8

Y1 - 2014/8

N2 - During recent decades, many researchers have advocated the benefits of equality over hierarchy. These scholars, for example, have argued that income should be uniform across the organization, layers of management should be dismantled, and that employees should be granted opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Yet, many complications of equality have also been unearthed. For instance, variability in income is sometimes positively associated with performance, employees tend to prefer organizations that are characterized by many tiers of management, and employee participation in all key decisions can undermine efficiency. Managers, therefore, must introduce measures that temper these complications. To identify suitable measures, managers need to understand how different dimensions of equality impinge on the determinants of wellbeing and performance. To fulfill this need, this paper first distinguishes three dimensions of equality: participation, authority, and income. Next, this paper invokes a variety of theories-from compensatory control to dominance complementarity-to understand how each dimension of equality affects the core needs of individuals, as defined by self-determination theory. Equality of authority tends to impede all three needs: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Equality of participation and equality of income, however, foster all three needs. One exception is that equality of income may diminish competence on tasks that demand the application of established principles rather than intuition. This framework clarifies the designs and practices of organizations that may optimize wellbeing and enhance performance.

AB - During recent decades, many researchers have advocated the benefits of equality over hierarchy. These scholars, for example, have argued that income should be uniform across the organization, layers of management should be dismantled, and that employees should be granted opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Yet, many complications of equality have also been unearthed. For instance, variability in income is sometimes positively associated with performance, employees tend to prefer organizations that are characterized by many tiers of management, and employee participation in all key decisions can undermine efficiency. Managers, therefore, must introduce measures that temper these complications. To identify suitable measures, managers need to understand how different dimensions of equality impinge on the determinants of wellbeing and performance. To fulfill this need, this paper first distinguishes three dimensions of equality: participation, authority, and income. Next, this paper invokes a variety of theories-from compensatory control to dominance complementarity-to understand how each dimension of equality affects the core needs of individuals, as defined by self-determination theory. Equality of authority tends to impede all three needs: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Equality of participation and equality of income, however, foster all three needs. One exception is that equality of income may diminish competence on tasks that demand the application of established principles rather than intuition. This framework clarifies the designs and practices of organizations that may optimize wellbeing and enhance performance.

KW - Equality

KW - Hierarchy

KW - Self-determination

KW - Wellbeing

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84901829039&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.emj.2013.09.006

DO - 10.1016/j.emj.2013.09.006

M3 - Article

VL - 32

SP - 636

EP - 645

JO - European Management Journal

JF - European Management Journal

SN - 0263-2373

IS - 4

ER -