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The Full Spectrum of Status Striving Motivation: Understanding the Diversity of How People Approach Status


In this dissertation, I challenge two assumptions in the literature (Chapter 1). First, I challenge the extant conceptualization of status conflict and propose that status conflicts can be conceptualized as a negotiation over either zero-sum rank or construed in integrative terms as mutually attainable respect (Chapter 2). Respect-based status conflicts are less threatening than are rank-based status conflict, and so are potentially more successful for the challenger and less disruptive to the group. Empirically, I introduce the strategy of respect affirmation, which shifts rank-based status conflict into respect-based status conflict, and demonstrate that status challenges that are accompanied by respect affirmation should buffer the challenger against the backlash of engaging in status challenge (Chapter 3). Second, I question the assumptions from the extant theory that all people strive for more status (Chapter 4). I introduce the concept of stasis-striving, a work motivation characterized by a desire to maintain one’s current role and level of responsibility through sustained effort and diligence while avoiding opportunities to attain higher status. The results demonstrate the existence of stasis-strivers and identify some of the challenges they may experience in the workplace. In sum, I study the full spectrum of status striving motivation (Chapter 5). While the first part of the dissertation investigated people who care so much about moving up the hierarchy that they actively challenge others for more status, the second part of the dissertation examined people who find it unappealing to aggressively seek opportunities for advancement while nonetheless being completely engaged in their current job.

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