Prof. Christian Tröster, PhD

Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Prof. Christian Tröster, PhD

Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Dr. Christian Tröster is Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the KLU. A sociologist by trade, he received his PhD with a focus on organizational behavior from the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) (NL). He is a frequent visitor to top business schools around the world and had been a visiting Assistant Professor at the Singapore Management University from 2010-2011 before joining KLU.

In his research, Christian Tröster explores questions regarding people’s selves and their identity. Specifically, he investigates why people often respond in adverse and sometimes self-defeating ways when they do less well than others and how they can develop ways to use this information for their benefit. Second, he is interested in how one’s identity influences a person’s behavior in a culturally diverse workforce to understand why diverse groups often underperform in comparison to more homogeneous teams (and to change this). Finally, he uses (social) psychological theory to research how people shape and at the same time are being shaped by the complex – and to them often unknown - patterns of social networks surrounding them. His research has been published in top-tier journals and is currently funded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Currently, he serves on the editorial board of the Leadership Quarterly.

Dr. Christian Tröster teaches how to be more effective when dealing with people from other cultures (intercultural communication), how to better understand what motivates people in organizations (leadership and organizational behavior), and how companies can make better use of data (applied statistics). He teaches both students and executives in top-ranked programs and delivers trainings for companies around the globe.


Tel: +49 40 328707-246
Fax: +49 40 328707-209


Selected Publications

DOI: 10.1002/hrm.21876 

Abstract: Organizations often pay greater salaries to higher-ranking executives compared to lower-ranking executives. While this method can be useful for retaining those at the organization’s apex, it may also incline executives at the bottom of the pay pyramid to see themselves at a disadvantage and thus exit the firm. Naturally, organizations often want to retain some of their lower-paid, but highly valuable executives; the question, then, is how organizations can reduce the turnover of lower-ranking executives. By integrating social with temporal comparison theory, we argue that, when executives earn relatively less than their peers, more pay growth (i.e., individual pay increases over time) leads to less turnover. By the same token, we also argue that pay growth is unrelated to the turnover of executives who already earn substantially more than their peers. The results of our analysis, which covered almost 20 years of objective data on a large sample of U.S. top executives, provide support for our theory.

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Open reference in new window "Worse than others but better than before: Integrating social and temporal comparison perspectives to explain executive turnover via pay standing and pay growth"

DOI: 10.5465/amj.2016.0914 

Abstract: Research has shown that employees who occupy more central positions in their organization's network have lower turnover. As a result, scholars commonly interpret turnover as the consequence of social networks. Based on Conservation of Resources theory, we propose an alternative coevolution perspective that recognizes the influence of changes in individuals' social network position on their thoughts of quitting (the consideration of turnover), but also posits that thoughts of quitting shape individuals' agency in maintaining and changing their social network. Extending previous research, we predict that creation (dissolution) of both friendship ties and advice ties are negatively (positively) related to subsequent thoughts of quitting. We then develop and test the novel hypotheses that for friendship ties, thoughts of quitting are positively related to tie retention and negatively related to tie creation (leading to network stasis), whereas for advice ties thoughts of quitting are negatively related to tie retention and positively related to tie creation (leading to network churn). In a longitudinal network analysis that assessed 121 employees across three time points, we find support for our hypotheses that thoughts of quitting affect network changes, but do not find that network changes affect thoughts of quitting.

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Open reference in new window "The Coevolution of Social Networks and Thoughts of Quitting"

DOI: 10.1037/apl0000281 

Abstract: The extant social undermining literature suggests that employees envy and, consequently, undermine coworkers when they feel that these coworkers are better off and thus pose a threat to their own current status. With the present research, we draw on the sociofunctional approach to emotions to propose that an anticipated future status threat can similarly incline employees to feel envy toward, and subsequently undermine, their coworkers. We argue that employees pay special attention to coworkers' past development in relation to their own, because faster-rising coworkers may pose a future status threat even if they are still performing worse in absolute terms in the present. With a set of two behavioral experiments (N = 90 and N = 168), we establish that participants react to faster-rising coworkers with social undermining behavior when the climate is competitive (vs. less competitive). We extended these results with a scenario experiment (N = 376) showing that, in these situations, participants extrapolate lower future status than said coworker and thus respond with envy and undermining behavior. A two-wave field study (N = 252) replicated the complete moderated serial mediation model. Our findings help to explain why employees sometimes undermine others who present no immediate threat to their status. As such, we extend theorizing on social undermining and social comparison.

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Open reference in new window "Keeping (future) rivals down: Temporal social comparison predicts coworker social undermining via future status threat and envy"

DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2014.04.003 

Abstract: This longitudinal study used data from 91 self-managed teams (456 individuals, 60 nationalities) to examine the interactive effects of a team’s task (“workflow”) network structure and its cultural diversity (as indexed by nationality) on the team’s “potency” (i.e., the team’s confidence in its ability to perform) and its performance (as rated by expert judges). We found that whereas the emergence of dense task networks enhanced team potency it was the emergence of (moderately) centralized task networks that facilitated team performance. These varied structural effects, moreover, were themselves contingent on team composition: the more culturally diverse a team, the more pronounced were the positive effects of network density on team potency and the higher the level of network centralization required for optimal team performance. The success of a team appears to hinge on the interplay between network structure and team composition.

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Open reference in new window "Structuring for team success: The interactive effects of network structure and cultural diversity on team potency and performance"

DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1287-5 

Abstract: We investigate how social comparison processes in leader treatment quality impact group members’ self-worth, affect, and behavior. Evidences from the field and the laboratory suggest that employees who are treated kinder and more considerate than their fellow group members experience more self-worth and positive affect. Moreover, the greater positive self-implications of preferentially treated group members motivate them more strongly to comply with norms and to engage in tasks that benefit the group. These findings suggest that leaders face an ethical trade-off between satisfying the moral standard of treating everybody equally well and satisfying individual group members’ desire to be treated better than others.

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Open reference in new window "Satisfying Individual Desires or Moral Standards? Preferential Treatment and Group Members’ Self-Worth, Affect, and Behavior"

Academic positions

Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, Kühne Logistics University, GER

Visiting Assistant Professor at Saunder Business School, University of British Columbia, Vancouver/CAN

2011 - 2016

Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, Kühne Logistics University, GER


Visiting Assistant Professor at Singapore Management University, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, SIN


Visiting Researcher at Singapore Management University, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, SIN


Visiting Researcher at Links Centre, Gatton College of Business and Economics, University of Kentucky, USA


Internship at the Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) at the University of Groningen, NL



Ph.D. in Management at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, NL


MSc. in Sociology at the University of Groningen, NL


BSc. in Sociology at the University of Groningen, NL