Research

Groups judged on performance of their lead member

28 Sep 2019 By PM Editorial

If a leader makes a mistake, the rest of the group is likely to be ostracised, research reveals

People are more likely to judge the performance of a group or company based on members who are labelled as ‘first’ than any other member, according to research from Cass Business School. 

The study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, analysed individuals’ judgements in seven scenarios and found the performance of a group’s lead participant significantly influenced their perceptions of the remaining group members. 

This was attributed to people’s belief that the first group member or a company’s first employee is more influential in the organisation than those who join later. 

In one scenario, participants were told five international researchers were granted temporary work visas, and there was a chance their time in the UK could be extended so they could continue their work. But when they were told the scientist whose visa was approved first made a mistake, they were more likely to judge the whole group as ‘incompetent’ and did not support the visa extension.

Dr Janina Steinmetz of Cass Business School says: “When the first one makes a big mistake, people are more likely to say that all these scientists are terrible, and we don’t want them in the country.  

“People are more forgiving when the mistake is made by the scientist who receives their visa in the middle or last in the group and don’t make such a harsh judgement.”

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