Upward Influencers in Teams

77 Pages Posted: 13 May 2023

See all articles by Wei Cai

Wei Cai

Columbia Business School

Yaxuan Chen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Jee-Eun Shin

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: May 8, 2023


Upward influencers, employees that are more favorably perceived by their supervisors than their peers and subordinates, are predicted by economic and accounting theories and are found to be ubiquitous in many organizations. Despite their prevalence, whether having them in teams can impact team performance outcomes is generally underexplored. This paper fills this void by using proprietary data from a service-providing organization that allows for identification of upward influencers based on its 360-degree person evaluation. Our identification strategy relies on the plausibly exogenous team assignment at the organization with team performance being evaluated by clients. We find that the relationship between the proportion of upward influencers in a team and team performance is nonlinear and exhibits an inverted-U shape. Further tests and additional survey evidence show that upward influencers impair team horizontal relationships through worse communication, knowledge sharing, mutual assistance among team members, team satisfaction and perceptions of fairness. Meanwhile, teams with upward influencers build better vertical relationships with supervisors and in returns, supervisors allocate more of their time to provide team members with feedback and guidance. Finally, we show that the impact of upward influencers on team performance is more pronounced when the need for collaboration and information sharing is high and when managers are less experienced. Taken together, this study contributes to the understanding of upward influencers in teams and highlights the importance of team composition and managerial experience.

Suggested Citation

Cai, Wei and Chen, Yaxuan and Shin, Jee-Eun, Upward Influencers in Teams (May 8, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4447583 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4447583

Wei Cai (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Yaxuan Chen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Jee-Eun Shin

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4

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