UCL School of Management

Research project

Status in complex organizations


Complex organizations tend to develop its own unique shared belief systems of status hierarchy, inculcating actors with beliefs about social characteristics that are unique within the boundaries of the organization. For example, members of open source software development community tend to create new status markers such as location that are only meaningful for the community, while selectively ignoring other pre-existing status characteristics such as education and age.  The organizational context in these communities therefore leads to activation of new social markers and to deactivation of society-level characteristics.


Whenever social actors gather, a status hierarchy among these actors emerge where some actors are afforded higher esteem and social worth than others. In organizations, higher status actors are perceived to perform better and mobilize more resources.  One of the biggest discussions in management literature is the fact that women are still underrepresented in the upper echelons of organizations.  One argument for this “glass-ceiling” is that gender is a societally meaningful status characteristic that dictates individual evaluations within organizations.  This research shows that even complex organizations such as loose communities can deactivate such powerful social markers and create new ones.

Selected publications

Bianchi, A. J., Kang, S. M., & Stewart, D. (2012). The Organizational Selection of Status Characteristics: Status Evaluations in an Open Source Community. ORGANIZATION SCIENCE, 23 (2), 341-354. doi:10.1287/orsc.1100.0580 [link]

Link to the publication’s UCL Discovery page

Last updated Wednesday, 13 August 2014


Research groups

Organisations & Innovation

Research areas

Organization theory; Social psychology of organizations

Research topics

Group processes; Organisational adaptation; Performance; Status