The Breakdown of Authority

WZB Working Paper No. SP II 2003-07

18 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2004

Date Written: June 2003


This paper studies organizations with autocratic decisionmaking, i.e., where superiors make the decisions and subordinates either defy or submit to the authority. Superiors differ in the degree to which they fear defiance. The superiors who need obedience most face a credibility problem, which, in fact, makes them the least likely to be obeyed. The subordinate's competence has conflicting effects on the superior's welfare: competent subordinates comprise better sources of information but also harsher yardsticks. The result is that superiors prefer subordinates of medium competence.

Keywords: Authority, Organization Theory, Autocratic Decision Making

JEL Classification: D20, L20

Suggested Citation

Frisell, Lars, The Breakdown of Authority (June 2003). WZB Working Paper No. SP II 2003-07, Available at SSRN: or

Lars Frisell (Contact Author)

Sveriges Riksbank ( email )

S-103 37 Stockholm