Two contrasting notions concerning upward power tendencies within hierarchically structured groups are investigated. Power Distance Theory assumes that people have a desire for power that results in a tendency to reduce the power distance towards a more powerful other, and this tendency is assumed to be stronger the smaller the power distance. The bureaucratic rule implies that a vacant position may only be taken over by someone from the level immediately below the vacant position. In Experiment 1, power distance from the top position of a hierarchy was manipulated by assigning 120 subjects to a higher or a lower position in a power hierarchy. Results showed that only the motivation derived from the bureaucratic rule (i.e. entitlement) mediated the relationship between power distance and upward tendencies. In Experiment 2, a more pertinent test of the two theoretical notions was performed by assigning 139 subjects to one of three positions. The main results were consistent with the bureaucratic rule: (1) subjects immediately below the top position showed a stronger upward tendency towards this position than subjects in the two lower positions, whereas no differences were found between subjects in these two lower positions; (2) again only entitlement mediated the relationship between power distance and upward tendencies.
European Journal of Social Psychology – Wiley
Published: May 1, 1993
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