2018 Funded Research

Detached with a Catch: Understanding How Psychological Detachment Can Inadvertently Lead to Unethical Behavior

As traditional work arrangements continue to disappear, scholars have turned to investigate how individuals can manage the increasingly blurry lines between work and home. In doing so, research has suggested and demonstrated that psychologically detaching from work leads to variety of beneficial outcomes. For example, individuals who psychologically detach are less likely to face exhaustion (Sonnentag, Binnewies & Mojza, 2010), are more satisfied with life (Davidson et al., 2010) and are more proactive at work (Binnewies, Sonnentag, & Mojza, 2010).

Despite these proposed benefits, we argue that psychological detachment may have an unintended consequence; unethical behavior. Since those who psychologically detach after work are less likely to think about or solve work related problems, some scholars have suggested these individuals may need additional time and/or effort to become sufficiently immersed at work the next day (Fritz et al., 2010). Faced with an inability perform at appropriate levels, we suggest that employees who experience psychological detachment are more likely to turn to unethical behavior as a self-protective means to meet performance standards (Mitchell et al., 2018).

Despite this potential downside, we argue that emerging literature on leader humility poses important considerations. Specifically, we suggest that individuals will be less likely to engage in unethical behavior when their leader is high in humility, as they will be more willing to be forthright about their shortcomings that day (Owens & Hekman, 2016).

Research conducted by Samir Nurmohamed, Assistant Professor of Management; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Timothy Kundro, Doctoral Candidate; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

The Effect of Political Idealogy on the Adoption of Job Displacing Technologies

Recently, scholars have dedicated considerable energy to answering whether and how corporate leaders’ ideology—i.e., their personal comprehensive set of values and beliefs, conscious and unconscious ideas (Jost et al., 2008)—affects strategic decision making (Briscoe et al., 2014; Chin et al., 2013; Chin & Semadeni, 2017; Gupta et al., 2017a; Gupta et al., 2017b). But the nascent literature linking executive ideology and strategic decisions has focused on contexts in which executives’ ideology is clearly aligned with an underlying strategic choice. For instance, extending domestic partner benefits to LGBT employees (Gupta et al., 2017b) is unmistakably consistent with politically left ideologies (Vakili & Zhang, 2016): LGBTQ rights have been a strongly liberal initiative for decades and executives would understandably inject such values into policy decisions. Similarly, the relatively lower gender pay gaps (Briscoe & Joshi, 2017; Chin & Semadeni, 2017) are consistent with egalitarianism—or the belief that people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities—buttressed by politically liberal values. Lastly, conservative decisions including low-risk investment choices (Hutton et al., 2014) are by definition conservative, consistent with politically right ideologies.

Yet, ideologies are complex. Indeed, in real life, ideologies are underpinned by multifaceted sets of values that may conflict in the face of complex strategic decisions. One element of an executive’s ideology may favor one decision, while a different element may favor another decision. Thus, the question remains: How does an executive make decisions that are simultaneously consistent with some attributes of his or her ideology and at odds others?

We propose that prevailing institutional pressures (Scott, 1995) operate as cues that can make particular ideological attributes salient in the decision-making process, informing the manner in which ideology affects complex strategic decisions like the adoption of job-displacing technologies. Specifically, we predict that periods of economic munificence in which alternative employment opportunities are plentiful prime progressives’ tendencies toward innovation and experimentation, such that firms run by left-leaning executives are more likely to adopt job-displacing technologies. Conversely, under conditions of recession in which alternative job options are scarce, progressives’ prioritization of public welfare and equal opportunity become more salient, making them more reticent to adopt job-displacing technologies.  Accordingly, during these periods, we expect that firms run by right-leaning executives are more likely to adopt such technology. We further draw on institutional theory and political sociology to extrapolate and test potential moderators of these effects, including the ideological orientation of the firm’s headquarter state and the mobilization of the labor movement, as proxied by levels of unionization and contentious collective action. We will explore these hypotheses in a longitudinal study of the proliferation of self-checkout machines in the U.S. grocery, drugstore, and variety store industries between 1987-2007.

Research conducted by Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Assistant Professor of Management; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Daniel Wilde, Doctoral Candidate; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

The Polished True Self: Communicating and Perceiving Authenticity in Professional Interactions

How do individuals communicate and perceive authenticity in everyday work interactions, and how is the changing nature of work and technology shifting these processes? Scholars of human and organizational behavior have long been captivated by the way in which individuals express (and repress) their true self (or selves) to others, and how these social interactions and reactions influence subsequent identity formation (e.g. Ashforth, 2001; Goffman, 1959; Leary & Kowalski, 1995; Ramarajan, 2014; Swann et al. 2009). Both the internal experience of positive identity formation and the external presentation of the self to others are important determinants of employee success. Expressing ones true or “authentic” identity has been theorized to positively impact outcomes such as successful work transitions (Ibarra & Barbulescu, 2010) social relationships at work (Dutton, Roberts, & Bednar, 2010), newcomer socialization and performance (Cable, Gino & Staats, 2013) and innovation and organizational change (Swann et al. 2009). However, the ability to cultivate positive impressions in the eyes of others is also critical to many objective performance outcomes including hiring decisions (Kristof-Brown, Barrick, & Franke, 2002) performance evaluations (Wayne & Liden, 1995) and boardroom appointments (Westphal & Stern, 2006, 2007).

This work examines the tension between authenticity and conformity, or managing authentic vs. professional impressions. Research on authentic self-expression and impression management in organizations suggests that members of organizations may face a predicament: there are increasingly explicit social expectations and rewards that encourage them to be authentic at work, but these may conflict with pressures to maintain a professional image in the eyes of colleagues, or a devoted “ideal worker” identity (Reid, 2015). Extant scholarship on identity work and impression management reveals situations in which authentic self-expression and appropriate self-presentation are in conflict in organizations. On the one hand, common accounts and admonishments to “just be you” or “bring your whole self to work” (e.g. Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015; Robbins, 2015) suggest that authenticity is a noble and valuable state that will be rewarded in organizations (Cable et al. 2013; Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015; Ibarra & Barbulescu, 2010; Roberts et al. 2009; Swann et al. 2009). For leaders, the social rewards for authenticity may be especially important, to gain the trust of followers and multiple constituents (Avolio et al. 2005).; Ramarajan & Reid, 2013).

Research conducted by Adam M. Grant, the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania;  Nancy Rothbard, David Pottruck Processor of Management; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Julianna Pillemer, Doctoral Candidate in Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

When Giving Advice Motivates Behavior

When we are stuck or unsure of what to do, we seek advice. Yet beyond knowledge, goal achievement requires the motivation to turn knowledge into action. Based on this premise, we explore the counterintuitive hypothesis that giving advice motivates behavior in the advice-giver. To test this, we conduct a large-scale, randomized-controlled, field experiment at Teachers pay Teachers (TpT), an online marketplace for teachers to sell teaching resources to one another. In partnership with TpT, we randomize teacher-sellers to give advice to fellow teachers (Treatment 1), to give their advice to themselves (Treatment 2), or to a no-treatment control condition (Control). We examine whether advice-givers, compared to controls, increase their TpT productivity and revenue over the following month.

Research conducted by Adam M. Grant, The Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Post-Doctoral Fellow, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Race and Multiple Identity Management in Workplace Relationships

Understanding the leadership and promotion experiences of US Army Officers.

In this study, we examine a potential alternative explanation for black leaders’ underrepresentation in top management positions; that is, how they manage their multiple identities (i.e., cultural/racial and work identities) in key workplace relationships. Research suggests that how multiple identities are managed at work may influence the quality of workplace relationships.  Research also suggests that relationships between managers and their subordinates can influence subordinates’ career outcomes.  Yet, the dynamics among the management of multiple identities at work, the quality of workplace relationships, and individuals’ career outcomes include their leadership and promotion experiences are not well-understood. Thus, the guiding research question for the present study is: “How does the management of multiple identities in workplace relationships shape individuals’ leadership and promotion experiences?”  This is an inductive, qualitative study that adopts grounded theory techniques. Our primary method of data collection includes semi-structured interviews with current and former US Army officers. Ideally, each officer will participate in two interviews conducted six months apart in order to examine their work experiences over time.  Our goal is to recruit a relatively matched sample of Black and White Army officers for comparison purposes from which to build theory on multiple identity management at work.


Research by Stephanie J. Creary, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania; Brianna Caza, University of Manitoba; LTC Hise O. Gibson, The United States Military Academy (West Point); Laura Morgan Roberts, Georgetown University; Arran Caza, University of Manitoba

Hesitant at the Helm

The Emergence-Effectiveness Paradox of Reluctance to Lead

History books are filled with stories of bold, tenacious leaders who fearlessly took charge and ultimately changed the course of history.  These historical accounts mirror society’s perception of many leaders today, as leaders are thought to be confident, dominant, and “all in” (Schuh, Bark, Van Quaquebeke, Hossiep, Frieg, & Van Dick, 2014).  However, a deeper dive into the minds of historical and contemporary leaders reveals that some individuals are hesitant to assume the mantle.  For example, although he greatly wanted to be involved, Martin Luther King, Jr. was reluctant to lead the Civil Rights Movement due to other personal commitments, yet he was essentially forced into the job because of a vote (in favor of King) that occurred when he was late to a meeting (Carson, 1998). And one of today’s most prominent business leaders, Sheryl Sandberg, holds many reservations about taking the lead despite being highly motivated and ambitious (Sandberg, 2013).  These examples demonstrate that successful leaders may have conflicting views towards leadership; although motivated to lead they may simultaneously experience doubts about taking the reins of power, indicative of what I call leadership ambivalence.  Despite the common association between leadership and success, leading is not equally appealing to all.

As a result, individuals may hesitate to step into leadership roles and may emerge less often as leaders.  Interestingly, although the topic of leadership emergence has received extensive attention from organizational scholars (Eagly & Karau, 1991; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002), our understanding of reluctance to lead remains limited.  Extant work on diversity recognizes that women and racial minorities pursue leadership roles less often than their counterparts (Eagly & Chin, 2010; Eagly, Karau, Miner, & Johnson, 1994; Gino, Wilmuth, & Brooks, 2015; Greenhaus, Parasuraman, & Wormley, 1990; Olivas, 2014; Sandberg, 2013); nonetheless, there are motivational reasons to explain why even majority group members may be disinclined to lead.

Scholars have also established that leader self-efficacy is a key determinant of who takes on leadership roles (Paglis & Green, 2002), but individuals’ doubts about leading may not necessarily center on whether they can do the job, but instead speak to doubts about whether they should do the job.  Scholars have also explored individual-level differences in motivation to lead (Chan & Drasgow, 2001), indicating that this is an important driver of whether or not individuals “opt” into leading, and/or are selected to lead by others.  However, research on approach-avoidance conflict (Chatterjee & Heath, 1996; Lewin, 1935; Miller, 1944) and ambivalence (Fong & Tiedens, 2002; Pratt, 2000) suggest that individuals may simultaneously be drawn towards yet resist leading, but little is known about why people hesitate to become leaders even when motivated to do so.  Furthermore, organizational scholars have yet to explore how ambivalent individuals (that is, those who are both motivated and reluctant to lead) perform as leaders.  I therefore propose a series of studies to examine these gaps in the literature.

Research by Adam M. Grant, the Class of 1965 Wharton Professor of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Danielle Tussing, Doctoral Candidate, the Wharton School Management Department