My Boss is Younger, Less Educated, and Shorter Tenured: When and Why Status (In)congruence Influences Promotion System Justification

Office of Alumni and External Relations    2021-05-26

My Boss is Younger, Less Educated, and Shorter Tenured: When and Why Status (In)congruence Influences Promotion System Justification

Guest: Huisi (Jessica) Li, Assistant Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology

Host: Ouyang Can, Assistant Professor, Shanghai Jiaotong University

Time: Tuesday, June 1th, 2021,  10:00-11:30

Venue: Tencent Conference (Meeting ID: 705642658; Password: 700425)


Supervisors are usually older, more educated, and of longer tenure than their subordinates, a situation known as status congruence. However, subordinates are increasingly experiencing status incongruence, in which their supervisors lack these traditional status markers. We examine how status congruence versus incongruence interacts with subordinates’ judgments of their supervisors’ competence to influence subordinates’ perceptions of promotion system fairness and their subsequent work engagement. Grounded in system justification theory, we found that when the supervisor was relatively less competent, status congruence was more likely to be the basis of system justification and thus enhance the perceived fairness of the promotion system (Study 1). Moreover, this interaction effect was stronger among subordinates who had lower organizational power (Study 1) or fewer employment alternatives (Study 3), known elicitors of people’s system justification motivation. Further supporting the system justification explanation, in a study in which the supervisor always was less competent, status congruence positively influenced the perceptions of promotion system fairness of subordinates with few, but not many, employment alternatives (Study 2). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


Huisi (Jessica) Li conducts research on how to effectively manage and lead the increasingly diverse and dynamic labor force. The two primary areas of her interests are (a) power and status dynamics in teams and (b) employee turnover. She has conducted research in collaboration with a variety of organizations including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Darden, etc.

Her research aims to shed light on how to manage participation and status dynamics in multinational teams. Specifically, one of her studies examines how language proficiency, an understudied construct, adds a unique layer to team dynamics above and beyond the commonly studied dimensions of cultural and demographic diversity (Li, Yuan, Bazarova, & Bell, 2018). This paper has received the 2015 Best Student Paper Award and 2015 Student Transnational Research Award from the Academy of Management. In a related paper, she and her collaborators studied how people from different national and organizational cultures view, gain, maintain, and utilize status (Li, Chen, & Blader, 2016).

For her research on employee turnover, she studies how and why unit-level changes, for example, leader departures, lead to unit instability or collective turnover (Li, Hausknecht, & Dragoni, 2020). Her paper has received the 2018 Best Micro Paper Award from the International Association for Chinese Management Research.

She taught Negotiations at the Master's level at Cornell University. She is currently teaching undergraduate Organizational Behavior at Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech University.

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