2020 Funded Research

Do Ask Do Tell


Psychological safety is a key force in organizations (Kahn, 1990). While the benefits of psychological safety are well documented (e.g., Baer & Frese, 2003; Detert & Burris, 2007; Nembhard & Edmonson, 2006), there are relatively few studies examining the specific actions leaders can take to make it safer for their team members to speak up. We are conducting a series of studies to examine how leaders can best establish psychological safety in teams over time.

Research conducted by Constantinos G.V. Coutifaris, Doctoral Candidate; the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Adam M. Grant, the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Can Predecessors Activate Leadership Selection Biases? Successive Comparison Effects on the Evaluation of Leadership Candidates.

There is growing social motivation and incentive for firms to increase the racial diversity of organizational leaders. Yet, little is known about how the social cognitive processes of evaluating leadership candidates are influenced by the current pro-diversity climate. Extant research has shown that one important consideration when evaluating a new leader is the extent to which the new leader is reminiscent of a successful or unsuccessful past leader (Ritter & Lord, 2007; Zhao et al., 2016). Evaluators tend to favor candidates who are similar to a previous, high-performing leader. Alternatively, evaluators tend to oppose leadership candidates who are either reminiscent of a previous, low-performing leader or dissimilar to a previous, high-performing leader. I suggest that given the current climate of increasing racial diversity, minority candidates will be advantaged when following a previous, low performing White leader, while White candidates will be disadvantaged when following a previous, high-performing minority leader. I test these predictions using a combination of experimental and archival data sources. In addition to providing useful insights related to bias that arises from comparing new leaders with predecessors, this study is paramount for understanding how the current pro-diversity climate affects the social cognitive processes of evaluating minority and White leadership candidates.

Research conducted by McKenzie C. Preston, Doctoral Candidate; the Wharton School and Drew Carton, Associate Professor of Management; the Wharton School

Resilience at the base of the pyramid: Technology access and entrepreneurial leadership in Indian micro-ventures.

In our research, we plan to investigate how access to new technologies affects the viability of small businesses in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. We expect that business owners with greater access to technology will search more broadly and deeply for information, broaden their support networks, and cultivate expanded strategic repertoires. Through this, we anticipate that these business owners will be more resilient to adversity, engage in more strategic pivots, and be more likely to maintain operations. Together with our research partner, The Grameen Foundation, we plan to investigate these questions through a longitudinal field-study of micro-entrepreneurs in India.

Research conducted by Aparajita Agarwal, Doctoral student, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Tyler Wry, Associate Professor of Management, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Allyship Effectiveness

This study will help us better understand the motivations, competencies, and behaviors associated with allyship in professional settings. One way to understand how workplace discrimination can be counteracted is to study the role of allies, or dominant group members who support minorities in the pursuit of workplace equality. Although considerable attention has been devoted to examining what motivates dominant group members to offer help, less is known about what happens once they begin the process of helping, in part because scholars have generally assumed that dominant group members will be helpful as long as they are motivated. This study will begin to unpack when and why allies might be effective.

Research conducted by Karren Knowlton, Doctoral Candidate; the Wharton School and Professor Drew Carton, Associate Professor of Management; the Wharton School

The Year That Shook the World of Non-Market Behavior

This research analyzes corporate responses to the Coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, we seek to understand how high-profile public declarations such as the Business Roundtable (BRT) statement—redefining the purpose of the corporation as “contributing to an economy that serves all Americans”—shape corporate responses in times of great social need. Our study compares responses among BRT statement signatories to peer firms in the S&P 500, analyzing differences in the nature, timing, and justification of corporate responses.

Research conducted by Kevin Chuah, Visiting Doctoral Student; the Wharton School, Doctoral Candidate in Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, Mike Useem, the William and Jacklyn Egan Professor of Management and Director, Center for Leadership and Change Management; the Wharton School, and Kevin Wry, Associate Professor of Management; the Wharton School

Leadership rhetoric strategies to promote cross-racial unity

Times of social unrest, such as that which the United States is currently facing due to various tragic racial injustices, may serve as threatening exogenous shocks that create cross-racial tension and conflict (Leigh & Melwani, 2019). Importantly, the responsibility of managing and mitigating conflict, including racial conflict, is a central responsibility of leaders (Behfar et al. 2008; Blake and Mouton 1981; Greer et al. 2008; Tinsley 2001). To mitigate heightened racial conflict, organizational leaders may attempt to bring people together via a superordinate goal of inclusion. We define a superordinate goal of inclusion as a unifying goal that requires individuals in opposing groups of two or more to work together toward a common end result of inclusivity.

During times of intensified racial tension, leaders may communicate a superordinate goal of inclusion that emphasizes “recategorization” or “de-categorization.” In the case of recategorization, leaders will seek to switch subordinates’ focus from their own racial subgroup (e.g., African American) to the broader category to which they belong (e.g., organizational identity) (Brewer, 2007; Gaertner et al. 2000); whereas with de-categorization, leaders will attempt to switch subordinates’ focus from their racial subgroup to a personal identity (e.g., myself). However, we suggest that communicating a superordinate goal of inclusion using either recategorization or de-categorization will backward; instead, subordinates will be more motivated toward a superordinate goal of inclusion when leaders communicate using subgroup-identity (racial identity) rhetoric compared to superordinate-identity (organizational identity) rhetoric and individual-identity (personal) rhetoric. Through an archival study and three experimental studies, we examine and attempt to remedy the discrepancy between which rhetoric tactics leaders tend to enact to communicate a superordinate goal of inclusion and which rhetoric tactic motivates employees toward inclusivity during heightened racialized conflict. The aim of this study is to challenge the pervasive view that redirecting attention away from subgroup differences is the most effective approach to cultivate harmonious intergroup relations.

Research conducted by McKenzie C. Preston and Arianna Maria Beetz, Doctoral Candidates; the Wharton School, and Drew Carton, Associate Professor of Management; the Wharton School