Research Summary: We investigate the conditions under which authority can be deployed without reducing subordinate motivation. We show that lateral authority, the legitimacy to resolve task-specific problems, is welcomed by members of an organization in the resolution of coordination conflicts, the more so (a) the fiercer the conflict to be resolved, (b) the higher the competence-based status of the authority, (c) the lower the tenure of, and (d) the more focused the organizational members are. Analyzing the discussion behavior of members of Wikipedia between 2002 and 2014, we corroborate our allegations empirically by analyzing 642,916 article–discussion pages. Our findings, obtained for a modern collective production community, provide learning opportunities for how traditional organizations may want to govern activities of their idiosyncratically motivated staff.
Managerial Summary: When managers use their (legitimate) power to take decisions on behalf of their staff, they risk setting back employees and making them detach from the firm. This danger is particularly salient whenever highly motivated teams of staff autonomously work on corporate problems and are used to governing themselves. Examples range from skunkwork initiatives within traditional firms to entire team-based organizations, such as Valve or Zappos. When and how managers can add value by resolving conflicts within and across these teams once their self-organization fails is what we study in this article. Inspired by data from Wikipedia, we suggest that managers should not intervene prematurely, benefit from visible competence, and are respected most for their actions by specialized peers who recently joined the organization.

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Strategic Management Journal
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Klapper, H., & Reitzig, M. (2018). On the Effects of Authority on Peer Motivation:Learning from Wikipedia. Strategic Management Journal. doi:10.1002/smj.2909