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IACM 2023

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Understand The Emotional Consequences of Hierarchy: Hierarchy Results In Unpleasant Emotions, Emotional Suppression, and Employee Disengagement

Although hierarchy has its functional side in terms of facilitating coordination, hierarchy also often comes with social costs, such as fueling destructive intragroup conflict. Previous literature on hierarchy has focused on a motivational lens to understand the downsides of hierarchy, such as escalated status motives and social comparisons in hierarchical groups. Extending this view, this research adopts an emotional lens to unpack how hierarchy shapes individuals' emotional experiences in organizations. We propose that hierarchical structure in groups increases individuals' unpleasant feelings and suppression of emotions at work, irrespective of their own hierarchical standings in the group. Such hierarchy-induced unpleasant feelings and suppressions of emotions will subsequently lead to individuals’ increased emotional exhaustion and emotional labor, reduced extra-role behavior, and intentions to stay at work. Three studies, including data from one large cross-national archival dataset, a large financial institution, and an online study, support our hypotheses.

Siyu Yu
Rice University
United States

Jinyoung Sohn
University of Maryland

Myeong-Gu Seo
University of Maryland


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