Full Program »
How Do Low-Power Individuals Compete? An Investigation of Covert Competition
Power and competition are important aspects of people’s organizational lives. Prior research on the relationship between experiencing power and engaging in competitive behavior suggests conflicting results. To reconcile the mixed findings, we make a distinction between covert competition and overt competition. We define covert (overt) competition as behaviors that the intention to win or defeat one’s opponents is ambiguous or unclear (obvious or clear) to the opponents. Based on the theory of power-dependence, we propose that when competing against others, low-power individuals are more likely to compete covertly (as opposed to overtly) compared to high-power individuals. We argue that this is because low-power individuals tend to fear having negative repercussions of revealing their competitiveness, and such fear triggers them to compete more covertly. This research highlights the nuanced relationship between power and competitive behavior as well as the importance of understanding the psychology of low power.