Seeing Status through Different Lenses: Status Disagreement in Culturally Diverse Teams


Sujin Jang, INSEAD (

Catarina Fernandes, Emory Goizueta Business School (


This paper develops and tests a model of the antecedents and consequences of status disagreement – differing perceptions among team members regarding who has how much status– in multicultural teams. Integrating the status hierarchy and cross-cultural literatures, we predict that diversity in the degree of individualism-collectivism of the national cultures represented in a team is likely to result in status disagreement. We expect this effect to be mitigated, however, when there is at least one multicultural member within the team. Finally, we predict that status disagreement harms team performance, and that this negative effect is strongest in teams whose members come from high power distance cultures. We test our hypotheses in a study of 783 culturally diverse teams (4,174 participants) collaborating over the course of eight weeks and find overall support for our model. The theory and findings presented contribute to our understanding of multicultural teams and status hierarchies.



  1. The greater the diversity in the level of individualism-collectivism of team members’ home countries, the greater the status disagreement within the team will be.
  2. The effect of individualism-collectivism diversity on status disagreement is moderated by the presence of multicultural team members, such that the presence of such members weakens the effect of individualism-collectivism diversity on status disagreement.
  3. Status disagreement harms team performance.
  4. The effect of status disagreement on team performance is moderated by the extent to which a team rely on the status hierarchy to function, such that status disagreement is more harmful for performance in teams whose members rely more on the status hierarchy.


The data come from a major global student collaboration project (see Taras, Muth, & Gitlin, 2013 for an overview of the project), which brings together students from different countries to collaborate in global virtual teams over the course of eight weeks. It provides a unique opportunity to study a large number of multicultural teams working on the same task.


The data used for our analyses come from two primary sources: (1) surveys completed by participants and (2) evaluations from faculty members supervising the projects. The participants were surveyed at several points over the course of the 8-week project. A survey before teams were assigned (“pre-project survey”) collected participants’ demographic information and background. A second survey at the end of the first week of the project (“week 1 survey”) gathered participants’ round-robin status ratings. At the end of the semester, each team received evaluations of their project from the faculty members affiliated with the team.