Does the general process of bias toward the ingroup against the outgroup also occur in all business and career settings? Or, worded in terms of influence, is someone on your own team more likely to be trusted and listen to than someone on the other team?
The same kinds of intergroup conflict
The answer is a definitive yes, and this is where the work of another famous social psychologist Henri Tajfel comes into play. Tajfel and his colleagues were interested in whether more neutral situations might lead to the same kinds of intergroup conflict.
So, rather than inducing competition Tajfel would simply group people together arbitrarily. In some experiments he grouped them according to whether they over or under estimated the number of dots flashed on the screen.
In another study he grouped people based on whether they preferred paintings by Klee or Kandinsky. At the extreme, Tajfel and one of his colleagues Michael Billig group people by a flip of a coin: heads you’re over there, tails you’re over here.
To think that people would treat others differently based on groupings created by a coin flip sounds crazy. But that’s exactly what happened!
Participants in Tajfel studies describe members of their own group more favorably than members of the other group and they were more generous to members of their own group as compared to members of the other group.
Shared group membership can increase liking and trust
How does this relate to influence? What this suggests is that mere sense of shared group membership can increase liking and trust. So, the agents who are most influential are those that have some overlap in group membership with their targets. This plays out in the real world.
Consider what every athletes athletic coach or university president does upon being selected by a new team: he puts on the proper uniform. Think back to the last press conference you saw with the new team member, whether it was a basketball player drafted or university president hired, that new team member almost certainly wore a jersey a hat or a tie of the new team.
This was the case, one football coach Rich Rodriguez was hired from West Virginia to coach the Michigan Wolverines. He was wearing the right tie all maize and blue, but Rodriguez’s story shows that there’s a bit more to successful influence than wearing the right clothes: you have to talk the talk as well.
At his opening press conference he knew a very good job convincing others he was part of the team. When he was asked by a reporter do you have to be a Michigan man to be the Michigan coach. Rodriguez replied – “I hope not. They hired me!”
Not really just about where you went to school
In the book 3 and out author John Bacon describes Rodriguez trouble-free years at University of Michigan the scene was described as the start of a rocky relationship with some of the school’s big athletic donors.
You see, a Michigan man is an idea that people in Ann Arbor talk about that idea about being someone with pride courage and a love for the team. Not all of the former Michigan coaches had played in Michigan, so being a Michigan man wasn’t really just about where you went to school.
If Rodriguez had done a little more research and learned some about the team and the meaning of this phrase you might’ve answered the question differently.