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Academy of Management Journal 57, 1 (2014) 223-248
We investigate how initial status position influences the quality of task performance in the aftermath of status loss. We argue that despite the benefits of having status, high-status individuals experience more self-threat and, consequently, have more difficulty performing well after status loss than do low-status individuals who experience a comparable loss of status. In a field study of professional baseball players (Study 1), we found that while low-status players' performance quality was unaffected by status loss, the quality of high-status players' performance declined significantly after losing status. In a high-involvement group experiment (Study 2) we found that high-status individuals who lost status were less proficient than both high-status individuals who did not lose status, and low-status individuals who lost a comparable amount of status. However, supporting the proposed self-threat mediation, self-affirmation restored the quality of high-status individuals' performance (Study 3). We discuss the practical and theoretical implications of these findings.