Does power imbalance lead to competition or cooperation? A middle power imbalance perspective

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation at conference/workshop/seminar


Team power structure has significant impacts on team processes and outcomes. However, most studies assume members with different levels of power will act similarly under the same team power structure. In this study, we draw on power dependence theory to propose that dyadic power imbalance between team members will motivate their strategic power use, including cooperative and competitive behaviors, which work through two mechanisms—perceived opportunity to increase power and perceived threat to power. Furthermore, we propose the middle power imbalance theory to explain the relationship between power imbalance and perceived power opportunity and threat, which states that a middle level of power imbalance is more likely to activate instrumental perceptions of opportunity to increase power or threat to power, and evoke cooperative or competitive behaviors, respectively. We tested the hypothesized relationships with 415 employees from 56 teams using the social relations model and received support for most of the hypotheses. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings to team power structure and dynamic management.
Period4 Aug 20238 Aug 2023
Event titleAnnual Meeting of Academy of Management
Event typeConference
LocationBoston, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • power imbalance
  • perception of opportunity and threat
  • cooperation and competition
  • social relations model