The moderating effects of status and trust on the performance of age-diverse work groups

Publication Date01 Apr 2019
AuthorCara-Lynn Scheuer,Catherine Loughlin
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
The moderating effects of status
and trust on the performance of
age-diverse work groups
Cara-Lynn Scheuer
Department of Management and Decision Sciences,
Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina, USA, and
Catherine Loughlin
Sobey School of Business, Saint Marys University,
Halifax, Canada
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to help organizations capitalize on the potential advantages of age
diversity by offering insight into two new moderators in the age diversity, work group performance
relationship status congruity and cognition-based trust.
Design/methodology/approach The authors surveyed 197 employees and 56 supervisors across
59 work groups to test for the moderating effects of status congruity and cognition-based trust on the age
diversity, work group performance relationship.
Findings The results demonstrated, on the one hand, that under conditions of status congruity (i.e. when
there were high levels of perceived status legitimacy and veridicality) and/or when perceptions of
cognition-based trust were high within the group, the relationship between age diversity and work group
performance was positive. On the other hand, under conditions of status incongruity and/or low levels of
cognition-based trust, this relationship was negative.
Research limitations/implications The findings contribute to the literature by being the firstto provide
empirical evidence for the theorized effects of status on the performance of age-diverse work groups and also
by demonstrating the effects of cognition-based trust in a new context age-diverse work groups.
Practical implications Arising from the studys findings are several strategies, which are expected to
help organizations enhance perceptions of status congruity and/or trust and ultimately the performance of
their age-diverse work groups.
Originality/value The paper is the first to empirically demonstrate the moderating effects of status
congruityand cognition-based trust on theage diversity, work group performancerelationship. Thestudy also
establishes important distinctionsbetween the effects of objective statusdifferences vs status perceptions.
Keywords Aging, Teamwork, Organizational behaviour
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
In recent years, there has been a great deal of debate surrounding the potential benefits
that could arise from todays increasingly age-diverse workforce (Ng and Parry, 2016).
Advantages can include enhanced creativity, innovation, service quality, and overall
performance (van Knippenberg et al., 2004; van Dijk et al., 2012). While some
organizations have been able to reap those benefits, for many this potential is never fully
realized (AARP, 2016). Diversity researchers claim that these missed opportunities
are largely due to the scarcity of research focused on understanding the conditions
under which diversity is likely to be positively or negatively associated with performance
(i.e. on the moderators of the age diversity, work group performance relationship;
Evidence-based HRM: a Global
Forum for Empirical Scholarship
Vol. 7 No. 1, 2019
pp. 56-74
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/EBHRM-01-2018-0008
Received 27 January 2018
Revised 15 March 2018
19 March 2018
Accepted 20 March 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors would like to acknowledge the David Sobey, Centre for Innovation in Retailing and
Services at Saint Marys University (Canada) for funding this research and Allegra Network LLC,
George Nixon, David Williamson III, and Mike Dye, for helping to facilitate the data collection.
The authors would also like to thank Dr Dianne P. Ford (Memorial University) and Dr Eddy Ng
(Dalhousie University) for their helpful feedback on earlier stages of this research.
Van Knippenberg and Schippers, 2007). Nishii and Mayer (2009) and Guillaume et al.
(2017) argued that in order to increase this understanding and, more importantly,
help organizations capitalize on age diversity in their workplaces, more researchneeds to
be devoted to identifying and understanding new moderators in this context.The present
study addresses this need by examining two moderators that have been overlooked in
work group age diversity research, yet they are likely to play an important role in the
performance of these groups, status, and trust. The selection of these moderators was
informed by the results of prior exploratory research conducted by the authors of this
paper (Scheuer and Loughlin, 2017). This involved conducting in-depth interviews with
older/younger workers regarding the factors that they felt contributed to the success or
failure of work projects assigned to their age-diverse teams. Through an inductive
analysis of the interview data, status and trust surfaced as two of the most critical success
factors for these teams, thereby prompting further investigation in the present study.
In the literature review that follows further detail is provided on these two factors as well
as on their hypothesized effects on the performance of age-diverse work groups.
2. Literature review
2.1 Status congruity as a moderator
The notion of status dates back to Max Webers (1922) seminal work on social stratification.
In his three-component theory of stratification, Weber argued that power can take a variety
of forms; it can be shown in the economic order through their class, in the political order
through their party, and in the social order through their status(Hurst, 2007, p. 202).
In general, people may be said to occupy high status positions when they are able to
control, by order or by influence, other peoples conduct; when they derive prestige from
holding important offices; or when their conduct is esteemed by others(Alexander, 2016,
pp. 31-32). There are many different determinants or indicators of status. For example,
status can be ascribed (i.e. assigned to individuals at birth without reference to any innate
abilities), such as the case with an individualssex, race, or family relationships. Status can
also be achieved or gained through individual merit or competition (Alexander, 2016)
such as through educational pursuits, advancements up the organizational hierarchy, with
increasing years of service/tenure, and/or other earned credentials.
Regardless of whether status is ascribed or achieved, status must be attributed by other
group members, i.e., it arises from the perceptions or subjective assessments of others rather
than being claimed by any one individual (van Dijk and van Engen, 2013). Status can also
vary according to the social context (Alexander, 2016). In a North American context, high
status is typically ascribed to individuals in the workplace who are more tenured, older, who
are male and/or that occupy masculine qualities, who have achieved higher levels of
education or a more prestigious degree, and who are higher up in the organizational
hierarchy (e.g. a manager or director as opposed to a frontline employee; Hirschfeld and
Thomas, 2011). High levels of status can also be ascribed to individuals if they occupy a
special skill or have expertise in a high-demand area or even due to their association with
powerful others, e.g., from being the bossspet.In a work group context, status is in a
large part attributed based on the extent to which group memberscharacteristics are
perceived to resemble the characteristics that are considered to be importantto the success
of the group (van Dijk and van Engen, 2013, p. 226).
Although status has been entrenched within society for quite some time (Weber 1922),
this topic has become more relevant in recent years due to the growing prevalence of
status-based differences within work groups (Triana et al., 2017). With the changing
demographics in a global society, todays organizations are becoming more diverse with
respect to a variety of demographically oriented status attributes, such as race, gender,
nationality, and age (Guillaume et al., 2017; van Dijk et al., 2012), thereby increasing the
effects of
status and

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