Member Publication: Status–Authority Asymmetry between Professions: The Case of 911 Dispatchers and Police Officers

Hi OOW Members! Check out this new publication from OOW Member Arvind Karunakaran:

Citation:

Karunakaran, Arvind. “Status–Authority Asymmetry between Professions: The Case of 911 Dispatchers and Police Officers.” Administrative Science Quarterly, November 15, 2021, 000183922110595. https://doi.org/10.1177/00018392211059505.

Abstract: 

Status–authority asymmetry in the workplace emerges when lower-status professionals are ascribed with the functional authority to oversee higher-status professionals and elicit compliance from them on specific processes or tasks. Eliciting such compliance is ridden with challenges. How and when can lower-status professionals with functional authority elicit compliance from higher-status professionals? To examine this question, I conducted a 24-month ethnography of 911 emergency coordination to understand how 911 dispatchers (lower-status professionals with functional authority) can elicit compliance from police officers (higher-status professionals). I identify a set of relational styles—entailing interactional practices and communication media—enacted by the dispatchers. My findings suggest that dispatchers whose relational styles involved customizing the workflow via private communications with police officers or privately escalating cases of officers’ noncompliance to supervisors did not elicit greater compliance. In contrast, dispatchers who did elicit compliance used a peer publicizing relational style: they shared news of the noncompliant behavior—generally in a bantering, humorous manner—with an officer’s immediate peers using a communication medium that all officers in the police unit could hear. Publicizing noncompliant behavior among the immediate peers triggered the officer to self-discipline, as that noncompliant officer’s trustworthiness was on the line in front of the peer group. More generally, through enrolling an alter’s peers in the compliance process, the lower-status professionals with functional authority could generate second-degree influence and elicit compliance from the higher-status professionals.

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