Research Findings

Corporate elite fracturing and short-termism

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September 26, 2019

In 2014, CVS CEO Larry Merlo made the controversial decision to pull tobacco products from the store’s shelves. The decision immediately caused a 7% drop in stock price and cost the business $2 billion in revenues in the following year.

Yet, Merlo argued that this short-term sacrifice was necessary to promote CVS’s long-term competitiveness as the decision allowed the firm to position itself as a healthcare company, which would not be possible were the firm to continue selling tobacco products.

Carey and colleagues provide an account for how Merlo and the board of directors were able to promote and achieve a strategy that would cost shareholders in the short-term. First, Merlo had considerable discretion and autonomy as a CEO. Second, Merlo was able to convince the board to see the value of a long-term orientation, in part due to board members’ experiences on other boards facing similar decisions. Merlo and the board developed an approach, built on this understanding, for selling the firm’s strategy to investors and market analysts. The authors also document how other firms, including 3M and Verizon, made significant investments in R&D and innovation that paid off in the long run but at the expense of short-term gains.

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Research Findings

To post or not to post? Making better internal hires


September 22, 2019

Over the last several years, workers and firms have both come to place an increased premium on internal hiring and mobility. While it remains rare for workers to spend their entire career within the same organization, workers would prefer to advance their careers with their current employer, as internal moves are less risky, provide stability, and allow workers to take on more new responsibilities than other firms are willing to provide.

Organizations have come to realize that internal hires are both less expensive and more effective than external hires. As a result, nearly half of all open jobs are now filled internally, and that percentage is even higher as one moves closer to the C-suite.

In a recent study, I set out to better understand how jobs are filled internally. It turns out that the vast majority of internal hires are made through posting or slotting. Posting is a formal, market-oriented process in which a hiring manager posts an open job to an internal job board and invites interested internal candidates to apply.

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Research Findings

How social entrepreneurs can build institutions through mobilizing collective emotions following natural disasters

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September 16, 2019

What happens to disaster-affected communities once the nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and media circus fly off to the next disaster? Our recently published research on the work of returnee social entrepreneurs in Haiti addresses this important question.

Aside from the recent Oxfam scandal where aid workers exploited sex workers, Haiti’s progress in rebuilding since the devastating 2010 earthquake has been conspicuously absent from the news. Our research explores how longer-term disaster recovery and rebuilding actually takes shape.

Understanding the means by which communities can recover from disaster and build better, more resilient institutions (schools, physical infrastructure, workplaces, etc.) is a non-trivial matter. After most extreme natural hazards, communities struggle to cope with them and bounce back, often for years. This is partly because effective institutional support and organizing templates are frequently absent during the post-disaster recovery.

Our research shows that institutional workers, specifically social entrepreneurs, are key social actors that can fill the institutional voids and build community capacity.

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Research Findings

Fraying family support systems call for stronger public safety nets


September 11, 2019

Our spouses, our parents, and our children are often the first lines of defense against challenges in life. We lean on them as we navigate our first jobs or raise funds for a new home. We ask them for help when we fall ill. When their help is not enough, we turn to public safety nets provided by schools, hospitals, and government programs. However, these safety nets are grossly inadequate to catch the vulnerable. What is more, the family support system is threatened by growing divorce, single parenthood, and poor health among vulnerable populations.

Getting and staying married is becoming a phenomenon of the upper classes. People with less education and less income are increasingly opting to forgo marriage. Instead, they often enter parenthood alone or within cohabiting relationships that are unstable with few legal protections. The divorce rate, while on the decline for upper-class families, is still at a historical high among couples with the least education.

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Research Findings

Disconnect between business and state contributed to Marikana massacre


September 4, 2019

The Marikana massacre, in which 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead by police on 16 August 2012, was a tragic and historic event in South Africa. A judicial commission of inquiry set up to investigate how it came about put much of the blame on the police.

It was also critical of the mining company, Lonmin. In particular, the commission highlighted the company’s failure to live up to its promise to build 5,500 houses for workers. It only built three. This created a situation, according to the commission, in which “large numbers of Lonmin workers live in squalid informal settlements… creating an environment conducive to the creation of tension, labour unrest, disunity among its employees or other harmful conduct”.

Even a Lonmin executive conceded this link in one of the commission’s hearings.

But how was it possible for Lonmin to renege on its promise to build 5,500 houses? After all, this was a formal commitment made in terms of the Mining Charter of 2002 and thus legally binding.

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Research Findings

How origin-country culture matters for immigrant women’s work

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August 28, 2019

Why is it that immigrant women from China work more than immigrant women from India? An intuitive answer is that women in China are more likely to work than women in India, which is related to prevailing norms in these countries about gender and work. When women immigrate to, say, the United States, they bring these norms with them, which influences their subsequent decisions about whether to work.

Our research confirms this basic insight but adds an important twist: not all women from a particular origin country share the same beliefs regarding work. Therefore, although the employment behavior of immigrant women stems, in part, from the norms that prevail in their countries of origin, the influence of these norms is likely to vary across individuals from the same country, depending on their personal beliefs and motivations for migrating.

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Research Findings

The “voice bystander effect”: Why employees often see something but say nothing

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August 21, 2019

When frontline employees speak up candidly, organizations become more effective. Because such employees are often in direct contact with customers and production processes, they tend to encounter important issues and develop valuable ideas and opinions that can help correct for problems on the horizon. Therefore, when employees freely express their thoughts, organizations benefit by being able to quickly spot errors or mistakes, as well as innovate products and systems.

The problem, however, is that employees frequently fail to speak up or voice their concerns in the workplace. Consequently, problems fail to be escalated in a timely manner to leaders in upper management who can act on them. Often, workplace issues linger for a frustratingly long time, even when everyone on the frontlines knows about them. This becomes evident across a range of domains—from safety concerns with products or equipment to cases of sexual harassment.

Why don’t people speak up about workplace issues that are obvious to everyone around?

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Research Findings

Segmenting the online job market: Avoiding black holes and recruiting purple squirrels

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August 14, 2019

Many view the Internet as the ultimate labor market tool. By massively expanding information about job openings (through job posting sites like Monster.com) and job seekers (through social media sites like LinkedIn), the internet has reduced the information boundedness problem that plagued earlier labor markets.

But greater exposure to information on both sides of the labor market is insufficient for an expanded opportunity. In fact, it could lead to greater segmentation of the workforce.

To learn more about how the internet has transformed the market for labor, we interviewed 61 HR professionals in two southern metro areas in the US. We asked them to explain how they used the internet for posting jobs, recruiting workers, and reviewing job applicants. The results revealed two very different ways in which organizational actors perceive the online labor market.

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Research Findings

Why some immigrant entrepreneurs thrive where African-American entrepreneurs cannot


August 7, 2019

It’s a puzzle that social scientists have tried to solve for decades: How can immigrants come to the United States and achieve more economic mobility than African Americans, even when they start out with equal amounts of human, financial, and cultural capital?

For a variety of reasons, immigrants commonly use entrepreneurship as a mobility strategy.

The mobility prospects for immigrants in wage and salary employment can be low. Immigrants’ credentials, such as a law degree from back home, may not be formally recognized in the United States. In addition, many immigrants may not know English well, and they may experience racial or ethnic discrimination when applying for jobs.

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Research Findings

Stand-in labor and the rising economy of self

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July 31, 2019

In a hyper-mediated society, dominated by a culture of consumption and celebrity, the need for people to produce and project their “authentic” selves have gained new urgency. Whether on dating applications, on social media platforms, in college applications, or in professional settings, the crafting and presentation of “authentic” selves has become integral to today’s economy.  

Importantly, this increasing focus on crafting such selves coincides with the parallel development of what the sociologist Arlie Hochschild referred to in 2012 as the “outsourcing of self”—or the hiring of others to perform what are usually thought to be “personal” and “intimate” acts.

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