Obedience to Authority




Stanley Milgram, (Social Psychologist) who researched on the relationship between obedience and authority concluded that basically 2 factors motivated obedience to authority: (1) through fear, and/or  (2) to co-operate to the extent of acting against one’s own conscience at times. Despite the controversial nature of his experiments, these classics emphasised the following traits in human obedience to authority relationships: (1) reluctance by people with less or no authority to challenge power abuses practised by superiors: e.g. subordinates rarely question their boss’ authority for fear of repercussions like adverse performance ratings etc.

Findings from a similar research conducted by Bennette J. Tepper into aspects of obedience and authority in a strictly work environment at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte illustrate deeper manifestations of Milgram’s conclusions. The research themed “Subordinates’ Resistance and Managers’ Evaluation of Subordinates’ Performance” tested two perceptions of the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Models that exist in workplaces.  The results of the two research studies have led to an interactive model that predicts the existence of low quality LMX relationships under a system of Uniformly Dysfunctional Perspective (superiors rate their subordinates lower when they ask probing questions) while higher quality LMX prevails under a system of Multifunctional Perspective (superiors rate their subordinates higher when they ask probing questions).

Leadership Tip: Ask constructive probing questions.

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