A new study conducted by researchers at University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada, found that fear and intimidation at workplace could be an effective strategy in climbing up the ladder of success.
What's more, bullies are just as likely to achieve high social status as skilled, knowledgeable individuals, CNN reported.
The two-part study looked at how "dominance" and "prestige" can be used to achieve social rank and influence.
According to lead author Joey Cheng, a PhD candidate in UBC's department of psychology, the traditional view among social psychologists is that to be a leader you must contribute to the group, make sacrifices and demonstrate expertise. But, she says the reality is often very different.
People often say their boss is mean or pushy, or not particularly skilled, but they have to do what their boss asks or there will be consequences.
Cheng said that people's common experience doesn't match what researchers have assumed for centuries because when you talk to people and try to get a sense of what motivates them to do things in the workplace, people often say their boss is mean or pushy, or not particularly skilled, but they have to do what their boss asks of them or there will be consequences.
In the study, the researchers wanted to see if who you listen and defer to could also be a result of 'dominance'-how much you are afraid of the person, how much they're able to intimidate you by virtue of their ability to decide over your fate, for example whether you get fired or whether you get promoted or not.
In the first part of the study, 191 students in groups of four to six took part in a problem-solving exercise, while being videotaped. Participants then rated each other's influence and leadership, as well as their "dominance" and "prestige."
The researchers found that those rated more dominant and prestigious were also rated as more influential, and had more actual influence on the exercise.
In the second part, another 59 subjects, wearing eye-tracking devices, watched short video clips of the problem-solving exercise. These subjects paid significantly more attention to individuals in the clips rated as more dominant or prestigious-with the ability to command visual attention taken as an indication of influence.
The research also found that a person's influence was not affected by how much others liked them. Dominant individuals were, unsurprisingly, not well liked by others, but were still influential.
Cheng points out that dominance and prestige aren't necessarily character traits, but strategies deployed in certain situations, and can be used by anyone-with varying success.
The study will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.