Powerful people are terrible at cooperating, study shows

Decision-making becomes more difficult when many high-powered people are involved

Get enough powerful people together in a room and you’d think they would get things done.

Think again. A study has revealed that decision-making becomes more difficult when many high-powered people are involved.

Powerful individuals performed worse in a group of equals than when they were collaborating with people less powerful than them, according to research from the Hass School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Researchers randomly assigned individuals positions of power in five studies. They looked at how the “high power” individuals performed and interacted when working with a subordinate, alone, in a low-powered team and with other leaders.

Power has been showed to give people more confidence in their decisions and better focus on completing tasks and reaching goals.

But that isn’t always useful in a group scenario, which requires people to put aside their personal goals and focus on cooperating and communicating with one another.

The research found that the more high-powered individuals present, the more a group struggled to complete a task.

That’s because leaders fought over their place within the group and were less focused on the task when working together. 

They also had trouble sharing information with each other and were less likely to reach an agreement during a negotiation.

The research helps us understand the behaviour and performance, but also the failures of those in power, according to John Angus D. Hildreth, who authored the study.

“Interaction among the powerful is vulnerable to conflict and miscommunication which undermines their collective performance,” he said.

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