Classical Deviation: Organizational and Individual Status as Antecedents of Conformity
Forthcoming, Academy of Management Journal
58 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2015 Last revised: 12 Sep 2015
Date Written: April 30, 2015
Beside making organizations look like their peers through the adoption of similar attributes (which we call alignment), this paper highlights the fact that conformity also enables organizations to stand out by exhibiting highly salient attributes key to their field or industry (which we call conventionality). Building on the conformity and status literatures, and using the case of major U.S. symphony orchestras and the changes in their concert programing between 1879 and 1969, we hypothesize and find that middle-status organizations are more aligned, and middle-status individual leaders make more conventional choices than their low- and high-status peers. In addition, the extent to which middle-status leaders adopt conventional programming is moderated by the status of the organization and by its level of alignment. This paper offers a novel theory and operationalization of organizational conformity, and contributes to the literature on status effects, and more broadly to the understanding of the key issues of distinctiveness and conformity.
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