Business Chemistry and The Authority Bias

At the end of the day, organizations are only people coming together to work on a common goal, while fulfilling their own mini personal goals. Despite all the “high” talk on automation. the human element shall always prevail till the organisations survive and world operates.

Consequently, organisational behavior and people practices is a wide area of research. In my opinion, it is one of the most complex areas. In my own experience, I can vouch for the difference in organisational behavior leading to different levels of performance of the organisations. The culture within the organisations as a whole and within the teams define how successful are the organisations and teams going to be in their own missions.

Naturally, organisational behavior and teamwork dynamics are a subject of specific interest for consulting firms.

Deloitte Greenhouse, the research wing of Deloitte, has leapfrogged in this area with the definition of Business Chemistry. Follow the link here. Business Chemistry identifies 4 personality types in organisations.

  1. Pioneers, the energy and idea powerhouse
  2. Drivers, the adventurers in the team
  3. Guardians, the seekers of order in the system
  4. Integrators, the stitching people who bring everyone together

Many of the individual traits are detailed below (source: The Business Chemistry Blog)


A further study was conducted by HBR on The New Science of Team Chemistry, that largely covered Deloitte Business Chemistry classification. Out of all the other things important in the study, two things stood out.

  1. Pioneers were obvious choice for top management positions
  2. Guardians were the most stressed out people in the team, with a close finish by the integrators.

The two survey outcomes above give strong evidence of Authority Bias playing more important role in organisations than one would assume.

What is Authority Bias?

As it is said in my native language Hindi, “Jhukti hai duniya jhukaane wala chahiye.” (The world bows to those who can make it bow). Authority bias is a psychological state when people relent to an authority in their surrounding. At homes, it is the role assumed by parents or grandparents, in offices the superiors assume it and on street, the police. These relationships follow the traditional hierarchical models of authority. The parents for their contribution in running the household and giving the family a well-being, the bosses in their offices to commit and deliver, the government agencies for their sheer nature of work. However, things change dramatically when one steps down to the team levels.

Typically, teams assume that the people demonstrating traits of Pioneers – being most vocal, sounding most imaginative and averse of details – are the one who command maximum authority in the team. As is seen from the C-level survey above, the behavior is across the ranks. Consequently, more and more seek to speak in meetings and group discussions to sound the authority in the meeting. The world relents and assumes so. The Pioneers suppress the other viewpoints and team takes a direction that many not be the best course for it. This is the classic problem of Authority Bias. At the same time, the guardians and integrators get stressed out. As they are aware that the authority assumed or granted to Pioneers can jeopardize the inherent risks.

To keep semblance in the team and to make sure that the right course is assumed for teams, it is important that the pioneers, guardians and integrators work together to set the future course for any team, organisation or group.

It is the responsibility of new-age managers and leaders to make sure that teams are evenly composed and that they dont fall in trap of the authority bias.

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