Royal surnames get the promotions


 Andrew Porterfield

The German language is replete with formal titles. Few, if any, other languages would routinely refer to someone as "Herr Professor Doktor." But apparently, German businesses take this love of title even further--people with "royal" sounding last names are more likely to get promoted.

Raphael Silberzahn of the University of Cambridge and Eric Uhlmann of HEC Paris looked at the positions and names of 222,000 Germans. People with last names of "Koenig" (king), "Kaiser" (emperor), or "Fuerst" (prince) were more likely to be in management positions in Germany than people with more pedestrian last names, like "Bauer" (farmer) or "Koch" (cook). Their findings appear in the Oct. 10 issue of Psychological Science.

The researchers found that managers with such royal last names appeared in management positions 2.7 percent more often than expected. These promotions existed even though the royally surnamed individuals had no ties to royalty of any kind. Silberzahn, which incidentally means "silver tooth" in German, suggested that cognitive associations with royalty impressed senior managers enough to favor employees with these names. Meanwhile, people with names that refer to ordinary occupations or, like "Silberzahn" or Uhlmann ("owl man"), do not refer to any occupation do not have a managerial advantage.


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