Papers and Research

My research and teaching interests are in the area of prosocial behavior, specifically the antecedents and consequences of social exchange in organizations. Much of my work is focused on understanding how people give and receive help and how their patterns of exchange shape their experience in the workplace. Some of my research considers the cooperation problem in diverse groups, attempting to identify what leads different people to develop trust and an increased willingness to share valued resources. I have also conducted some research on the topic of leadership, particularly who is likely to emerge as a leader at work.

I have broken down my research articles into four categories. Please visit the tabs below to read the abstracts and download the articles.

 

Prosocial Behavior

 

Jordan, J., Flynn, F., & Cohen, T. (in press). Forgive them for I have sinned: The relationship between guilt and others’ transgressions.

European Journal of Social Psychology

We propose that guilt leads to forgiveness of others’ transgressions. In Study 1, people prone to experience guilt (but not shame) were also prone to forgive others for past misdeeds. In Study 2, we manipulated harm- and inequity- based guilt; both increased forgiveness of others’ transgressions. Further, the effect of guilt on forgiveness was mediated by identification with the transgressor. In Study 3, we replicated the guilt–forgiveness relationship and examined three other plausible mediators: capability for similar wrongdoing, empathic understanding, and general identification; only identification with the transgressor satisfied the criteria for mediation. In Study 4, we induced guilt by asking participants to harm a friend or stranger. Guilt induced by harming a friend led to greater forgiveness of third-party transgressors, and again, identification with the transgressor mediated the effect. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding how the prosocial effects of guilt extend beyond the boundaries of a single interpersonal relationship.

 

Elsbach, K. & Flynn, F. (2013). Creative collaboration and the self-concept: A study of toy designers.

Journal of Management Studies, 50: 515-544.

In this paper, we explored how collaborative behaviors were related to (i.e., were congruent or incongruent with) the self-concepts of creative workers.  Our findings, derived from a qualitative study of corporate toy designers, showed that the personal (vs. social) identities of toy designers were most strongly related to collaborative behaviors.  Further, we found that collaborative behaviors defined as idea giving were most congruent with all toy designers’ personal identities, while collaborative behaviors defined as idea taking were most incongruent with those identities.  Finally, we found that specific collaborative behaviors related, in particular ways, to specific types of personal identities (e.g., the collaborative behavior of “incorporating the ideas of others” was especially incongruent with “artistic” personal identities, while the behavior of “co-creating ideas” was especially congruent with “problem solving” identities).  Together, these results suggest that promoting collaboration among creative workers may require attention to not only idea giving behaviors and social identities (as suggested by most extant theories), but also to idea taking behaviors and personal identities.  We discuss the implications of these findings for theories of creative collaboration and identity in organizations.


Newark, D., Flynn, F., & Bohns, V. (2014). Once bitten, twice shy: The effect of past refusal on expectations of future compliance.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5: 218-225.

Four studies examined help-seekers’ beliefs about how past refusals affect future compliance. In Study 1, help-seekers were more likely than potential helpers to believe that a previous refusal would lead potential helpers to deny a subsequent request of similar size.  In Study 2, we replicated this effect, and found that help-seekers underestimated the actual compliance rate of potential helpers who had previously refused to help.  Studies 3 and 4 explain this asymmetry. Potential helpers’ willingness to comply with a subsequent request derives from the discomfort of rejecting others not once, but twice, whereas help-seekers rely on dispositonal attributions of helpfulness to estimate the likelihood of hearing “yes” from someone who previously said “no.”


Torfason, M., Flynn, F., & Kupor, D. (2013). Here’s a tip: Prosocial gratuities are linked to corruption.

Social Psychological and Personality Science

We investigated the link between tipping, an altruistic act, and bribery, an immoral act. We found a positive relationship between these two seemingly unrelated behaviors, using archival cross-national data for 32 countries, and controlling for per capita gross domestic product, income inequality, and other factors. Countries that had higher rates of tipping behavior tended to have higher rates of corruption. We suggest that this surprising association may be accounted for by temporal focus—people may tip and bribe others in order to receive special services in the future. Indeed, in a pair of follow-up survey studies, we find evidence that the link between tipping and bribery can be partly accounted for by prospective orientation.


Willer, R., Flynn, F., & Ouzdin, S. (2012). Structure, identity, and solidarity: A comparative field study of direct and generalized exchange.

Administrative Science Quarterly

Social scientists have found conflicting evidence regarding the relationship between social exchange structures and the emergence of intangible, affectively-laden group sentiments. Here we propose an account of the link between exchange structure and the emergence of solidarity capable of accounting for the results of past research. We argue that benefits received through exchange foster group identification, but that this effect is stronger in generalized exchange than in direct exchange. At low levels of benefit generalized and direct exchange systems will produce similarly low levels of group identification. However, at high levels of benefit generalized exchange will result in relatively higher levels of identification. Having higher levels of identification leads individual members to view the group as higher in solidarity. We find support for this mediated moderation model in two survey-based case studies of organizations designed to facilitate distinct forms of exchange: one of “Freecycle,” a large-scale, on-line generalized exchange system (N = 608), the other of “Craigslist,” a comparable direct exchange system (N = 526).  The results suggest that generalized exchange is likely to emerge where a critical mass of exchange benefits creates positive sentiments toward the group, sentiments that help fuel further contributions in the exchange system.


Adams, G., Flynn, F., & Norton, M. (2012). The gifts we keep on giving: Documenting and destigmatizing the regifting taboo.

Psychological Science

Five studies investigate whether the practice of “regifting”—a social taboo—is as offensive to givers as regifters assume. Participants who imagined regifting thought that the original givers would be more offended than givers reported feeling, to such an extent that receivers viewed regifting as similar in offensiveness to throwing gifts away (whereas givers clearly preferred the former). This asymmetry in emotional reactions to regifting was driven by an asymmetry in beliefs about entitlement. Givers believed that the act of gift-giving passed “title” to the gift on to receivers—such that receivers were free to decide what to do with the gift; in contrast, receivers believed that givers retained some “say” in how their gifts were used. Finally, an intervention designed to destigmatize regifting by introducing a different normative standard (i.e., National Regifting Day) corrected the asymmetry in beliefs about entitlement and increased regifting.


Flynn, F.J. (2011). Give and Take: Psychological Mindsets in Conflict.

In Social Psychology in Organizations (eds. R. van Dick, K. Murnighan, & D. De Cremer), pp. 231-250.

From the chapter: “In this chapter, I argue that the psychological mindsets of givers and receivers represent an impediment to successful social exchange. Although givers and receivers often are similarly motivated to engage in cooperative acts, they focus on, evaluate, and react to the costs and benefits of social exchange in fundamentally different ways. My previous research suggests that the consequences of these differing psychological perspectives are damaging to long-term relationship development (e.g., lack of appreciation, insufficient reciprocity, and weak commitment). Future research might investigate how these conflicting psychological mindsets can be undone, or perhaps undermined.”


Flynn, F.J., & Bohns, V. (2012). Underestimating One’s Influence: Expectations of Compliance in Help-Seeking.

In Kenrick, D.T., Goldstein, N.J., & Braver, S. (Eds.) Full Cycle Social Influence, New York: Oxford University Press.

From the chapter: “…we have examined the extent to which people are aware of the most basic weapon of influence—making a direct request for help. Given that we regularly ask people for help or are subject to help requests ourselves, we should be fairly accurate in estimating the likelihood that others will say “yes” to a direct request. However, our research tells a different story—one that suggests people are woefully inaccurate when it comes to predicting others’ helpfulness. Rather than give people the benefit of the doubt, most of us wrongly assume that others will say “no” in response to our requests. In the sections that follow, we describe this systematic bias, highlight its potential utility, and address some of its adverse consequences…”


Gino, F., & Flynn, F.J. (2011). Give them what they want: The benefits of explicitness in gift exchange.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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Five studies show that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they explicitly request than those they do not. In contrast, gift givers assume that both solicited and unsolicited gifts will be equally appreciated. At the root of this dilemma is a difference of opinion about what purchasing an unsolicited gift signals: gift givers expect unsolicited gifts will be considered more thoughtful and considerate by their intended recipients than is actually the case (Studies 1-3). In our final two studies, we highlight two boundary conditions for this effect: identifying a specific gift and using money as a gift. When gift recipients request one specific gift, rather than providing a list of possible gifts, givers become more willing to purchase the requested gift (Study 4). Further, although givers believe that recipients do not appreciate receiving money as much as receiving a solicited gift, recipients feel the opposite about these two gift options (Study 5).


Bohns, V. & Flynn, F.J. (2010). “Why didn’t you just ask?” Underestimating the discomfort of help-seeking.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 46, 402-409.

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Across four studies we demonstrate that people in a position to provide help tend to underestimate the role that embarrassment plays in deciding whether or not to ask for help. As a result, potential helpers may overestimate the likelihood that people will ask for help (Studies 1 and 2).  Further, helpers may be less inclined to allocate resources to underutilized support programs than help-seekers because they are less likely to attribute low levels of use to help-seekers’ concerns with embarrassment (Study 3). Finally, helpers may misjudge the most effective means of encouraging help-seeking behavior—emphasizing the practical benefits of asking for help, rather than attempting to assuage help-seekers’ feelings of discomfort (Study 4).


Flynn, F.J. & Adams, G. (2009).  Money can’t buy love: Asymmetric beliefs about gift price and feelings of appreciation.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 45, 404-409.

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Across four studies we demonstrate that people in a position to provide help tend to underestimate the role that embarrassment plays in deciding whether or not to ask for help. As a result, potential helpers may overestimate the likelihood that people will ask for help (Studies 1 and 2).  Further, helpers may be less inclined to allocate resources to underutilized support programs than help-seekers because they are less likely to attribute low levels of use to help-seekers’ concerns with embarrassment (Study 3). Finally, helpers may misjudge the most effective means of encouraging help-seeking behavior—emphasizing the practical benefits of asking for help, rather than attempting to assuage help-seekers’ feelings of discomfort (Study 4).


Flynn, F.J., & Lake, V. (2008). “If you need help, just ask”: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first three studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings. Studies 4 and 5 demonstrated that experimentally manipulating a person’s perspective (as help-seeker or potential helper) could elicit this underestimation effect. Finally, in Study 6, we explore the source of the bias, finding that help-seekers were less willing than potential helpers to appreciate the social costs of refusing a direct request for help (the costs of saying “no”), attending instead to the instrumental costs of helping (the costs of saying “yes”).


Flynn, F., Reagans, R., Amanatullah, E., & Ames, D. (2006). Helping one’s way to the top: Self-monitors achieve status by helping others and knowing who helps whom.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 1123-1137.

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In this article, we suggest that high self-monitors are more likely than low self-monitors to agree with others about the existence of an exchange relation that involves giving or receiving help and advice. Further, high self-monitors are more accurate in perceiving exchange relations involving other members of their social network. Finally, we propose that high self-monitors are more attuned to the status implications of giving versus receiving help and advice (being the target of requests for help enhances one’s social status whereas seeking help from others decreases it). As a result, high self-monitors are less likely to ask others in their networks for help and are more likely to develop exchange relations in which they are sought out for help. We find support for these ideas in a complete sample of emergent network relations among Masters of Business Administration (MBA) students.


Flynn, F.J. (2003). How Much Should I Help and How Often? The Effects of Generosity and Frequency of Favor Exchange on Social Status and Productivity.

Academy of Management Journal.46(5): 539-553.

Available Upon Request

This article draws attention to an understudied form of social exchange in organizations–favor exchange among peer employees. Findings highlight a seeming paradox in employee favor exchange, such that generosity is positively related to social status, but balance is positively related to individual productivity. Employees can overcome such tradeoffs between status and productivity by engaging in favor exchange more often. Increased frequency of favor exchange is positively related to both status and productivity. Further, more frequent favor exchange strengthens both the positive relationship between being perceived as more generous and status and the positive relationship between maintaining an equitable balance in favor exchange and productivity.


Flynn F.J., Brockner, J. (2003). It’s different to give than to receive: Asymmetric reactions of givers and receivers to favor exchange.

Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(6): 1-13.

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The present research examines episodes of favor exchange among peer employees. We posit that favor receivers’ and favor givers’ commitment to their exchange relationships with one another will be accounted for by different factors. As predicted, in 2 different organizational contexts, receivers’ commitment to their relationships with givers was found to be more related to their judgments of the givers’ interactional justice when performing the favor, whereas givers’ commitment to their relationships with receivers was shown to be more associated with their judgments of the favorability of the outcomes associated with the favor that they performed. The implications of these findings for how givers and receivers can better manage favor exchange, and hence their relationships with each other, are discussed.


Flynn, F.J. (2003). What Have You Done For Me Lately? Temporal Adjustments to Favor Evaluations.

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Vol 91(1), 38-50.

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Previous theory and research on exchange relationships offer conflicting predictions about how givers and receivers evaluate episodes of favor exchange. Whereas studies of egocentric biases suggest that favors are valued more by givers than by receivers, theory and research on interpersonal interaction norms suggest instead that favors are initially valued more by receivers than by givers. This seeming paradox may be partly reconciled by demonstrating that the nature of asymmetry in favor evaluations depends on the timing of the evaluation. This idea was tested using a sample of experimentally constructed favors and a sample of actual favors performed by employees of an organization. In both studies, the evidence showed that favors were initially valued more by receivers than by givers following an episode of favor exchange. However, givers increased their favor evaluations and receivers decreased their favor evaluations as time passed, which suggests that egocentric biases may emerge over time.


Ames, D., Flynn, F.J., Weber, E. (2004). It’s the Thought That Counts: On Perceiving How Helpers Decide to Lend a Hand.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(4): 461-474.

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How do people react to those who have helped them? The authors propose that a recipient’s evaluation of a helper’s intentions and the recipient’s own attitudes about future interactions with the helper depend partly on the recipient’s perceptions of how the helper decided to assist: on the basis of affect, of role, or of cost-benefit calculation. When a recipient perceives that the decision was based on affect (i.e., positive feelings about him or her), he or she will be more inclined toward future interaction and reciprocation than if he or she perceives the decision as based on role or cost-benefit calculation. It is proposed that these “decision modes” signal the helper’s underlying attitudes about the recipient, which in turn, clarify their relationship. A boundary is also identified: The negative impact of apparent cost-benefit thinking is greatest when the amount of help provided is small. Predictions are confirmed in four studies of actual and experimentally manipulated helping episodes.


Flynn, F.J. (2006). How Much is it Worth to you? Subjective Evaluations of Help in Organizations.

Research in Organizational Behavior Vol. 27, 133-174.

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Helping behavior is a fundamental aspect of life in organizations, but subjective evaluations of giving and receiving help often diverge. What one employee believes is a generous act might seem insignificant to another. Such disparity in evaluations of helping can negatively affect interpersonal cooperation among peer employees. In this article, I review research on the topic of subjective evaluation in social exchange, present a preliminary model of how members of organizations construct evaluations of help, and explain how these evaluations may shape their work experiences. I conclude by discussing the implications of this framework for research on employee exchange and outline some directions for future research.


Schaumberg, R., & Flynn, F.J. (2009). “Thank you” versus “I owe you”: Gratitude and Indebtedness in Social Exchange.

Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 26, 105-132.

We aim to clarify the distinction between feeling grateful and feeling indebted. Often overlooked and underappreciated, the differences that define these unique affective experiences are critical to understanding the consequences of helping behavior. In this chapter we describe the psychological underpinnings of gratitude and indebtedness and outline the ways in which previous research has conflated the two constructs. In addition, we put forth a set of testable propositions that help distinguish the relative importance of gratitude and indebtedness in interpersonal relations. The implications of these ideas are discussed in the context of individual generosity, social exchange, and group dynamics.


Flynn, F.J. (2005). Identity orientations and forms of social exchange in organizations.

Academy of Management Review, 30(4): 737-750.

In this article, I attempt to explain why employees prefer different forms of social exchange by proposing that such preferences align with their identity orientations. In addition, I develop a model that outlines how identity orientations play an important role in the development of employee exchange relations and may help predict the consequences of exchange dynamics. By identifying linkages between identity orientations and forms of social exchange, I hope to stimulate future research on the connections between social exchange theory and the identity orientation framework, which could lead to further theoretical development in both paradigms.

Gender and Race

Flynn, F.J., Reagans, R., & Guillory, L. (2010). Do you two know each other? Transitivity, homophily, and the need for (network) closure.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 99, 855-869.

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We investigate whether need for closure affects how people seek order in judging social relations. In Study 1, we find that people who have a high need for closure were more likely to assume their social contacts were connected to each other (i.e., transitivity) when this was not the case. In Studies 2 and 3, we examine another form of order in network relations—racial homophily—and find that high-NFC participants were more inclined to believe that two individuals from the same racial category (e.g., African-American) were friends than two racially dissimilar individuals. Further, high-NFC individuals were more likely to make errors when judging a racially-mixed group of people; specifically, they recalled more racial homophily (racially similar people sitting closer together) than had actually appeared.


Bowles, H. & Flynn, F.J.  (2010).  Gender and persistence in negotiation: A dyadic perspective.

Academy of Management Journal. 53, 769-787.

Available Upon Request

Sex stereotypes suggest that men will persist more than women in negotiation. However, we propose that the gender composition of the dyad will be more predictive of negotiation persistence than the gender of the individual negotiator. Two experiments support our dyadic perspective, showing that women, in particular, vary the degree and quality of their persistence behavior depending on the naysayer’s gender. With male (vs. female) negotiation partners, women were more persistent but relied on more characteristically low-status forms of influence (more indirect than direct). Ultimately, women’s extra persistence with male counterparts helped reduce the gender gap in negotiation performance.


Flynn, F.J., Chatman, J.A., and Spataro, S.A. (2001). Getting to Know You: The Influence of Personality on Impressions and Performance of Demographically Different People in Organizations.

Administrative Science Quarterly, 46: 414-442.

Available Upon Request

This paper extends social categorization theory to understand how personality traits related to information sharing may correspond with positive perceptions of demographically different people, thereby enhancing their experience and performance in organizations. We tested our hypotheses in a sample of MBA candidates and a sample of financial services firm officers and found that people who were more demographically different from their coworkers engendered more negative impressions than did more similar coworkers. These impressions were more positive, however, when demographically different people were either more extraverted or higher self-monitors. Further, impressions formed of others mediated the influence of demographic differences on an individual’s performance such that the negative effect of being demographically different disappeared when the relationship between impression formation and performance was considered. This suggests that demographically different people may have more control over the impressions others form of them than has been considered in previous research.


Chatman, J.A., Flynn, F.J. (2001). The influence of demographic composition on the emergence and consequences of cooperative norms in work teams.

Academy of Management Journal, 44(5): 956-974.

Available Upon Request

We examined the influence of demographic differences on cooperative norms among MBA students working on a group consulting project and officers working in a large financial services firm. Drawing from social categorization theory, we predicted and found that greater demographic heterogeneity among members led to the development of norms emphasizing lower cooperation (independence), rather than higher cooperation (interdependence) among members, but this effect faded over time. Further, the perceptions of team norms among people who were more demographically different from their work group changed more, becoming more cooperative, as a function of the amount of contact they had with other members over the course of the project. Finally, cooperative norms mediated the relationship between group composition and work processes and outcomes such that the direct effects of demographic heterogeneity weakened or disappeared after the influence of cooperative norms was considered.


Flynn, F.J. (2005) Having an open mind: The impact of openness to experience on interracial attitudes and impression formation.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 88(5): 816-826.

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This article considers how Openness to Experience may mitigate the negative stereotyping of Blacks by Whites. As expected, Whites who scored relatively high on Openness to Experience exhibited less prejudice according to self-report measures of explicit racial attitudes. Further, Whites who rated themselves higher on Openness formed more favorable impressions of a fictitious Black individual. Finally, after observing informal interviews of White and Black targets, Whites who were more open formed more positive impressions of Black interviewees, particularly on dimensions that correspond to negative racial stereotypes. The effect of Openness was relatively stronger for judgments of Black interviewees than for judgments of White interviewees. These findings suggest that explicit racial attitudes and impression formation may depend on the individual characteristics of the perceiver, particularly whether she is predisposed to consider stereotype-disconfirming information.


Flynn, F., & Chatman, J.A. (2002) What’s the norm here? Social categorization as a basis for group norm development.

In E. Mannix and M. Neale (Eds.) Research on Managing Groups and Teams Vol. 5. 135-160.

Available Upon Request

Social categorization processes may lead work groups to form different types of group norms. We present a model of norm formation and suggest that group norms may emerge immediately following the group’s inception. Further, the content of such norms may be influenced by group members’ demographic heterogeneity. We outline a profile of work group norms and describe how social categorization processes influence the norm formation process. We also develop a series of testable propositions related to these norms. Finally, we discuss the implications of our social categorization model for future research on work groups in organizations.


Flynn, F.J., & Ames, D. (2006) What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander: The benefits of self-monitoring for men and women.

Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 272-283.

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We posit that women can rely on self-monitoring to overcome negative gender stereotypes in certain performance contexts. In a study of mixed-sex task groups, we found that female group members who were high self-monitors were considered more influential and more valuable contributors than women who were low self-monitors. Men benefited relatively less from self-monitoring behavior. In an experimental study of dyadic negotiations, we found that women who were high self-monitors performed better than women who were low self-monitors, particularly when they were negotiating over a fixed pool of resources, while men did not benefit as much from self-monitoring. Further analyses suggest that high self-monitoring women altered their behavior in these negotiations—when their partner behaved assertively, they increased their level of assertiveness, whereas men and low self-monitoring women did not alter their behavior.

 

 

Leadership

 

Wiltermuth, S., & Flynn, F.  (2013).  Power, punishment, and moral clarity.

Academy of Management Journal, 56: 2002-2023.

We propose that power increases how severely people punish a transgressor. Further, we argue that this greater severity stems from an increased sense of moral clarity instilled by the psychological experience of power. We investigate the linkages among power, moral clarity, and punishment across multiple studies. Individuals with an increased sense of power advocated more severe punishments for transgressors than did those with a diminished sense of power. Further, moral clarity mediated the link between power and severity of punishment. We discuss the implications of these findings for managers in organizations and researchers interested in punitive reactions to moral transgressions.


 

Schaumberg, R., & Flynn, F. (2012).  Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown: The link between guilt-proneness and leadership.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103: 327-342.

We propose that guilt-proneness is a critical characteristic of leaders and find support for this hypothesis across three studies. Participants in the first study rated a set of guilt-prone behaviors as more indicative of leadership potential than a set of less guilt-prone behaviors. In a follow-up study, guilt-prone participants in a leaderless group task engaged in more leadership behaviors than did less guilt-prone participants. In a third, and final, study, we move to the field and analyze 360-degree feedback from a group of young managers, working in a range of industries. The results indicate that highly guilt-prone individuals were rated as more capable leaders than less guilt-prone individuals, and that a sense of responsibility for others underlies the positive relationship between guilt-proneness and leadership evaluations.


Flynn, F., Gruenfeld, D., Molm, L., & Polzer, J. (2011) Social Psychological Perspectives on Power in Organizations.

Introduction to the special issue for Administrative Science Quarterly, 56(4) 495-500.

From the introduction: “Organizations are characterized by limited resources, conflicting interests, and task interdependencies, which make them rife with political activity. To understand organizational behavior, then, one must understand power, which inevitably shapes how people make decisions, allocate resources, and judge their colleagues. Power is germane to organizational behavior, in the sense that changes in power affect the functioning of any social structure, especially those marked by hierarchical differences. To be effective leaders, managers must be able to diagnose who has power, how it is obtained, and when it can be wielded effectively in order to advance their political goals and, in turn, benefit their constituents.”


Flynn, F.J. (2010) Power as Charismatic Leadership: A Significant Opportunity (and a Modest Proposal) for Social Psychology Research.

In The Social Psychology of Power (eds. A. Guinote and T. Vescio). pp. 284-309.

From the chapter: “Research on power in organizations centers around the subject of leadership—identifying which individuals tend to rise to positions of authority and explaining what makes them more or less effective in these roles. Perhaps no other type of leader garners more interest from organizational scholars, and the general public, than the charismatic one. Viewed as part-savior, part-savant, charismatic leaders are credited with launching revolutions, revitalizing failed enterprises, and inspiring legions of devotees (e.g., Khurana, 2002). They are seen as unstoppable when presented with a mission and unflappable when confronted with a mistake (House, 1977; Conger & Kanungo, 1987). In short, these individuals are considered to be responsible for changing the world in which we live.”


Flynn, F.J., & Staw, B.M. (2004) Lend Me Your Wallets: The Effect of Charismatic Leadership on External Support for an Organization.

Strategic Management Journal, 25: 309-330.

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We argue that charismatic leadership can influence external support for the organization, particularly in making the company more attractive to outside investors. Two studies were conducted to test this general hypothesis. First, an archival study demonstrated that the stock of companies headed by charismatic leaders appreciated more than the stock of comparable companies, even after differences in corporate performance were controlled. It was also found that the effect of charismatic leadership was heightened under more difficult economic conditions. Second, an experiment was conducted in which the salience of charismatic leadership was manipulated, along with information about the prospects for an organization’s turnaround. Results showed that appeals from a charismatic leader led to increased investment in the firm, and the leader’s influence was greater when the prospects for an organizational turnaround were more difficult. It was also found that an endowment of stock enhanced the influence of charismatic appeals and that charismatic leadership may have affected the general risk propensities of followers. These findings were interpreted in terms of an external perspective on leadership, illustrating how leaders can manage the firm’s economic and social environment.


Benjamin, L., & Flynn, F. (2006) Leadership Style and Regulatory Mode: Value from Fit?

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 100, 216-230.

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In this article, we consider the relationship between regulatory orientation and transformational leadership. Specifically, we propose that the effectiveness of transformational leadership depends on followers’ regulatory mode—the manner in which they pursue goals. Based on regulatory fit theory (Higgins, 2000, 2002), we hypothesize that transformational leadership will be more effective in increasing motivation and eliciting positive evaluations from people with more of a locomotion mode (those who focus on movement from one state to another) rather than people with more of an assessment mode (those who make comparisons and judgments before acting). We find support for these ideas using data collected from a survey of executives and two original experimental designs, one in which regulatory mode is measured as a chronic disposition and the other in which it is situationally induced.


Ames, D., & Flynn, F.J. (2007) What breaks a leader: The curvilinear relationship between assertiveness and leadership.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 307-324. 2007.

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We extend theory and research on the topic of leadership by proposing that assertiveness has a curvilinear effect on evaluations of leaders. In contrast to prior work focused on linear effects, we find that too much or too little assertiveness led to lower levels of perceived leadership potential. We link this effect to tradeoffs between social outcomes (high assertiveness worsens relationships) and instrumental outcomes (low assertiveness limits goal-achievement). Further, in qualitative assessments of leadership potential, assertiveness was more likely to be reported as a weakness than as a strength. This suggests that assertiveness (and other constructs with nonlinear effects) may be overlooked in studies that focus on identifying what “makes a leader” rather than what “breaks a leader.”


Anderson, C., Spataro, S., & Flynn, F.J. (2008). Personality and organizational culture as determinants of influence.

Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 702-710.

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How can individuals attain influence in organizations? Prior research has identified structural determinants of influence such as formal authority and position in a social network. However, indirect evidence suggests that influence might also stem from personal characteristics. We tested whether influence can stem from the fit between the person and his or her organization (P-O fit). Consistent with expectations, extraverts attained more influence in a team-oriented organization, whereas conscientious individuals attained more influence in an organization in which individuals worked alone on technical tasks. Further, these effects held up after controlling for formal authority, job performance, and demographic characteristics such as sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Links between influence in organizations and P-O fit are discussed.

Other Research

Flynn, F.J., & Schaumberg, R.A.  (2012).  When feeling bad leads to feeling good: Guilt-proneness and affective organizational commitment.

Journal of Applied Psychology, 97: 124-133.

Article available upon request

We posit that higher levels of guilt-proneness are associated with higher levels of affective organizational commitment. To explain this counterintuitive link, we suggest that a dispositional tendency to feel guilt motivates individuals to exert greater effort on their work-related tasks that, in turn, strengthens their affinity for the organization. We tested this idea using a laboratory study and field data from two samples of working adults. Individuals who are more guilt-prone reported higher levels of organizational attachment compared with less guilt-prone individuals. Further, mediation analyses indicate that the link between guilt-proneness and affective commitment is driven by greater task effort. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the affective drivers of commitment in organizations.


Bohns, V., & Flynn, F.  (2012).  Guilt by design: Structuring organizations to promote guilt as an affective reaction to failure.

Organization Science, 24: 1157-1173.

Article available upon request

When employees fail to perform their tasks, or perform them poorly, they typically experience some form of negative emotion. Yet the specific nature of their distress can vary, both in terms of the affective experience and its utility. Common affective responses to performance failures include anger, guilt, shame, and dejection. Each of these emotions is associated with a set of behavioral consequences, some adaptive and some maladaptive. Guilt, in particular, is adaptive, and shame, in particular, is not.  Though related, guilt and shame have important distinctions. Whereas shame reactions are associated with destructive behaviors such as withdrawal, hostility, and defensiveness, guilt reactions tend to inspire more constructive behaviors, such as engagement, apologizing, and reparation. In this article, we focus on guilt and shame in outlining a model of how organizations can effectively shape employees’ discrete affective reactions to failure.  Specifically, we suggest that several workplace features should be enhanced not to avoid negative affect, but rather to promote a specific form of negative affect that tends to be constructive (guilt) without simultaneously fostering another form of negative affect that tends to be destructive (shame).


Goncalo, J., Flynn, F.J., & Kim, S.  (2010).  Are two narcissists better than one? Narcissism, perceived creativity, and creative performance.

Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin, 36, 1484-1495.

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We examine the link between narcissism and creativity at the individual, relational, and group levels of analysis. We find that narcissists are not necessarily more creative than others but they think they are, and they are adept at convincing others to agree with them.  In the first study, narcissism was positively associated with self-rated creativity, despite the fact that blind coders saw no difference between the creative products offered by those low and high on narcissism. In a second study, more narcissistic individuals asked to pitch creative ideas to a target person were judged by the targets as being more creative than were less narcissistic individuals, in part because narcissists were more enthusiastic. Finally, in a study of group creativity, we find evidence of a curvilinear effect: having more narcissists is better for generating creative outcomes (but having too many provides diminishing returns).


Flynn, F.J., & Wiltermuth, S.  (2010).  Who’s with me? False consensus, brokerage, and ethical decision making in organizations.

Academy of Management Journal, 53, 1074-1089.

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We propose that members of organizations overestimate the degree to which others share their views on matters of ethics. Further, we argue that this false consensus bias is exacerbated, not mitigated, by occupying a more central position in an advice network. That is, network centrality increases a focal individual’s estimates of agreement with others on ethical issues beyond what is warranted by any actual increase in agreement. We test these ideas with three separate samples of graduate business students, executive students, and employees in an organization. People who had more central network positions (in particular, betweenness centrality) overestimated the degree to which their ethical judgments were in line with the judgments of their colleagues.


Flynn, F.J., & Amanatullah, E.  (2012).  Psyched up or psyched out? The impact of coactor status on individual performance.

Organization Science, 23: 402-415.

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The authors propose that performing an independent task alongside a co-actor who is an outstanding performer will improve a focal actor’s performance. In three studies that ranged from laboratory participants solving anagrams and playing video games to professional golfers competing in the Masters Tournament, performance improved more in the presence of a high-performing co-actor than in the presence of a weak-performing co-actor. However, when people were asked to compete directly with a strong performer, their own performance declined. In sum, when faced with the anxiety of performing alongside a high-status co-actor, independent co-action led people to become “psyched up” whereas direct competition led them to become “psyched out.”


Flynn, F.J., & Chatman, J.A. (2001).  Innovation and Social Control: Oxymoron or Opportunity?

In C. Cooper, C. Earley, J. Chatman, & W. Starbuck (Eds.) Handbook of Organizational Culture: John Wiley Press.

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From the chapter: “…this presents organizational researchers with an intriguing paradox: cultural strength purportedly limits individual creativity, yet creativity may be even better directed, in terms of producing and implementing more relevant and better ideas, in a strong culture that emphasizes particular innovation-enhancing norms…At the heart of this apparent paradox lies a limited consideration of culture and its effects on creativity and innovation in organizations. In particular, the distinction between culture strength and culture content has been blurred, which, in turn, has clouded the relationship between organizational culture and innovation. Our goal in this chapter is to clarify the impact of culture, particularly in terms of its content and strength, on an organization’s ability to innovate.”


Moore, D., & Flynn, F.J., (2008).  The case for behavioral decision research in organizational behavior.

Annals of the Academy of Management, 2, 399-431.

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From the chapter: “We argue that the field of organizational behavior (OB) is well positioned to adopt some of the strengths of behavioral decision research (BDR). Doing so would enable the field to gain in influence, scholarly stature, paradigm strength, and practical relevance.  In the course of making this argument, we review recent advances in behavioral decision research and highlight its relevance for organizational behavior.  In particular, our discussion focuses on how BDR can inform topics of longstanding interest to OB scholars.”


Chatman, J.A., & Flynn, F.J. (2005) Full-cycle organizational psychology research.

Organization Science. 16(4): 434-447.

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We advocate a full-cycle approach to conducting organizational behavior research. Full-cycle research begins with the observation of naturally occurring phenomena and proceeds by traveling back and forth between observation and manipulation-based research settings, establishing the power, generality, and conceptual underpinnings of the phenomenon along the way. Compared with more traditional approaches, full-cycle research offers several advantages, such as specifying theoretical models, considering actual and ideal conditions, and promoting interdisciplinary integration. To illustrate these advantages, we provide examples of an implicit approach to conducting full-cycle research and present suggestions for fostering more explicit full-cycle research programs in the future. We encourage individual researchers to adopt this approach rather than to assume the field will naturally avoid the inevitable vulnerabilities that emerge from relying on particular methodological approaches. We conclude by discussing the relevant constraints and opportunities for engaging in full-cycle organizational research.