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Do Star Performers Motivate or Psych Out Peers?

business people competitionBloomberg Businessweek
“B-School Research Takes on Office Politics.”
June 20, 2011

Recent research endeavors from top business schools show a common theme: how to increase effectiveness of running a company. Businessweek spoke to assistant management professor Emily Amanatullah about her research with Francis Flynn, a Stanford organizational behavior professor on the effects of high-achieving coworkers in the workplace:

Inspired by watching Tiger Woods at the height of his golf game, [they] conducted field studies and lab experiments to determine if star golfers (or office mates) motivate or psyche out those paired against them. They discovered that those with reputations as great performers—on the golf course and in the office—motivate others who are working alongside them on independent tasks but psych them out when they are in direct competition.

To see if the results on the golf course match those in the office, the team conducted lab experiments that had people work on individual tasks such as computer games alongside one another and then pitted them against one another in direct competition. The results were the same as those on the golf course. She hopes managers take away from this research how much influence people have on one another.

"The presence of others can affect a person's performance on tasks, even individual tasks," says Amanatullah, whose research was published online in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Processes last summer. "The layout of the office—who is sitting next to whom—can make a difference."

Read the full article and more b-school research on the Bloomberg Businessweek website.

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