2016 Funded Research

Organizational Behavior Conference

This year, the Leadership Center has generously sponsored Wharton’s annual Organizational Behavior mini-conference. For the past 21 years, this event has served as a forum for faculty to present new work and start new collaborations. The attendees are junior faculty from around the world who we have invited because they are conducting cutting-edge research in organizational behavior. This mini-conference is designed to be an opportunity for young scholars to engage in a dialogue that is more interactive than that typically found in large-scale conferences. Thus, this conference not only brings together young scholars doing important work in organizational behavior, but also facilitates the development of new collaborative ties and deep discussions of ongoing research. This year, we have assembled a diverse group of scholars whose work examines topics such as leadership, teams, diversity, emotions, culture, change, creativity, power, and ethics.

The Wharton OB Conference is sponsored by the Management Department, the Center for Leadership and Change Management, and the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. The Conference is led by Professors Drew Carton and Samir Nurmohamed.

Fake It Until You Make It: Understanding the Imposter Syndrome and its Impact on Job Performance

People who gain status from work experience a host of benefits. As compared to those with lower status, those with higher status gain greater power and influence, receive more positive evaluations in groups, and have greater well-being. Yet some people have stated that they doubt whether their status is deserved, particularly in the workplace. For example, after receiving a promotion, they think to themselves: “How did I get here? One of these days, people will realize I am not as smart as they think.” This experience, called the impostor syndrome, is the individual proclivity to believe that one has fooled those around them into adopting an overly positive view of oneself.

Despite attention by business practitioners and pundits, research on the impostor syndrome remains limited. Therefore, the aim of this project is to conduct the first systematic examination of the antecedents and consequences of the workplace impostor syndrome in the field of organizational behavior. In particular, by relying on both quantitative and qualitative methods, I look to understand how the impostor syndrome comes about, its effects on behavioral and attitudinal outcomes like job performance and job satisfaction, as well as what organizational leaders can do to help colleagues manage their impostor syndrome.

Research by  Basima Tewfik, Doctoral Candidate in Management, The Wharton School and  Adam Grant, Ph.D. Wharton’s Class of 1965 Professor of Management and author of Give and Take and Originals

Feeling for Your Foes: When and Why We Prefer Helping Out-Group Members

A wealth of evidence indicates that individuals are more likely to help in-group members, such as those who share their race, religion, or alma mater. This is due to feelings of interpersonal similarity and attraction, as well as a sense of common identity and fate. The aim of this study is to investigate the opposite behavior: when are people more motivated to help out-group than in-group members?

Theoretically, a deeper understanding of out-group helping can advance knowledge of the conditions under which dominant trends toward in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination can be lessened or even reversed. Practically, such an understanding can provide new tools for leaders and change agents to improve intergroup relations and promote giving across boundaries.


Research by Karren Knowlton, Ph.D. student, The Wharton School; Adam Grant, Ph.D. Wharton’s Class of 1965 Professor of Management and author of Give and Take and Originals; and Alison M. Fragale, Ph.D. Associate Professor Organizational Behavior, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina

Hesitant at the Helm: The Emergence-Effectiveness Paradox of Leadership Ambivalence

Although leadership is often portrayed in a predominantly positive light—and with good reason, considering the personal and professional rewards that leaders receive—leadership roles come with significant challenges that may be particularly unappealing or more salient to some individuals.  In this project, I argue that individuals can simultaneously be drawn toward yet shy away from leadership, indicative of leadership ambivalence.  In comparing ambivalent leaders to eager leaders (or those with high motivation and low reluctance to lead), I propose that ambivalent leaders are more effective, in part because they engage in more perspective-taking and delegation.  Therefore, I indicate that with sufficient motivation to lead, reluctance can actually be a strength for leaders.  I conduct experiments and field studies to explore my hypotheses.

Research by Danielle Tussing, Doctoral Candidate in Management