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How Group Status Influences Individual Behavior

How Group Status Influences Individual Behavior
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  • 0:05 Status & Behavior
  • 1:08 Place & Power
  • 2:45 Group Status
  • 3:52 Status Influences Behavior
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn
Our social status, or, more specifically, how we feel our social status is viewed by others, impacts our behavior in many ways. This lesson explores how belonging to certain status groups can influence how we behave and see others.

Status and Individual Behavior

The boss walks out of his office and everyone in the room tenses up. This group of employees feels nervous or stressed because the boss can impact their lives due to his status. The boss walks through the room looking at some employees and not looking at others. That alone gets people wondering if it's good to be looked at or not. His status in this group of employees impacts how these individuals perform and work with him.

Now, take that same boss and put him in a meeting at the corporate office with other executives. Some are from larger offices, while others have better relationships with the executives in the corporate office, and thus his status is lessened in the group. When he was in his home office (the first group) he was at the top of the hierarchy, and now at the corporate office (the second group), he is lower on the totem pole.

This story is an example of the status characteristics theory, which states that differences in social status create hierarchies within groups. This concept will be the center of our discussion as we explore how status can impact people in a group, as well as comparing one group's status to another.

Status Has its Place and Power

Social status is all around us and is something we interact with every day. This position or rank compared to others is what drives the hierarchies that are present in society and business. There is a status ranking in social settings (who has the most friends, or the most money, or who is the smartest, etc.) and in business settings (who has the highest rank in the company, which person is the best engineer, who is the number one salesperson). These statuses ultimately stratify the world around us and break it down into levels based on the setting (social or business). All these levels and layers of status can lead to inequality, which can lead to disequilibrium, which is a loss or lack of balance.

Let's take a minute to be very real about this topic. We have all been in groups and settings where we could sense who was higher in status and who was lower. It's not a bad thing, or even an appropriate thing. This is just the way human behavior works. It is part of the world we live in, and position, education, income, and any other demographic aspect can drive the stratification of individuals and groups.

However, this issue becomes bad or inappropriate when the power that comes with status makes for an uncomfortable disequilibrium or is used to keep others down or demean them. You see, status is power, and that power can be used for good or for evil, depending on the person that wields that power. We can look at heads of state or countries; some work with world leaders to fix issues and make the world a better place (a good use of status power), while others wish to create war or harm individuals (a poor use of status power).

Group Status

While it is evident that individuals have power, groups also have power. Thus, the influence a group has can be directly related to the status of that group. Just look at some of the groups that are better-known and think about the power they have:

  • The National Organization for Women
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Small Business Association

These groups have status and can have more power than, say, another group. It is safe to say the National Organization for Women probably has more status than, say, the Illinois Chapter of Needlepointers. That is not to say one group is better than the other, but we are talking about status and the power that comes from that status. Thus, groups with a higher degree of status inherently have more power, and that power can be transferred to group members depending on their status within the group.

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