A new research report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, The Destructive Nature of Power Without Status, examines an interesting phenomena. The research shows that people who have a combination of high power and low status are more likely to mistreat people for whom they have power over. Here’s an excerpt from the research:
… individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners (e.g., bark like a dog, say “I am ﬁlthy”) than did those in any other combination of power and status roles.
My take: If you apply the research findings to customer experience, it suggests that front-line employees that are empowered with a range of activities may be more likely to act negatively towards customers if they feel that their role at the company is relatively low in status. Here’s an example of what that looks like (in the comically absurd extreme):
To alleviate this situation, companies need to elevate the perceived status of front-line employees. This research provides even more motivation for executives to publicly discuss the importance of front-line employees and to regularly recognize the value of their efforts. Make sure that front-line employees feel that they are an important part of the organization.
The bottom line: Empowerment works best with high self-esteem