Subordinates are often seen as impotent, able to react to but not affect how powerholders treat them. Instead, we conceptualize subordinate feedback as an important trigger of powerholders’ behavioral self-regulation, and explore subordinates’ reciprocal influence on how powerholders allocate resources to them over time. In two experiments using a multi-party, multi-round dictator game paradigm, we find that when subordinates provided candid feedback about whether they found prior allocations to be fair or unfair, powerholders regulated how self-interested their allocations were over time. However, when subordinates provided compliant feedback about powerholders’ prior allocation decisions (offered consistently positive feedback, regardless of the powerholders’ prior allocation), those powerholders made increasingly self-interested allocations over time. In addition, we show that guilt partially mediates this relationship: powerholders feel more guilty after receiving negative feedback about an allocation, subsequently leading to a less self-interested allocation, while they feel less guilty after receiving positive feedback about an allocation, subsequently taking more for themselves. Our findings integrate the literature on upward feedback with theory about moral self-regulation to support the idea that subordinates are an important source of influence over those who hold power over them.
power, upward feedback, self-regulation, allocation behavior
Business | Organizational Behavior and Theory
Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources
Journal of Applied Psychology
OC, Burak; BASHSHUR, Michael R.; and MOORE, Celia.
Speaking truth to power: The effect of candid feedback on how individuals with power allocate resources. (2015). Journal of Applied Psychology. 100, (2), 450-463. Research Collection Lee Kong Chian School Of Business.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/lkcsb_research/4147
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