research

Research: We’re Less Likely to Collaborate in Bad Economic Times
Mordolff/Getty Images In the fall of 1930, the U.S. economy was on a path to recovery following a contraction that occurred the year before. However, worries about the state of the economy, and the banking system in particular, prompted an increasing number of bank customers to attempt to withdraw their funds, an event known as a bank run. Because banks normally keep only a small proportion of deposits in cash, bank runs create a self-fulfilling prophecy such that initial concerns about banks’ possible insolvency ultimately cause insolvency. The bank run of 1930 resulted in the worst e [...]
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When Bureaucracy Is Actually Helpful, According to Research
william bout/unsplash “Bureaucracy” has become a catchall term for the many ways in which organizations squander workers’ potential. From needless paperwork to delusional project timelines, administrative overhead can prevent workers from doing the meaningful tasks that contribute to the organization’s bottom line. Employees perceive bureaucracy to be an immovable beast, blocking their path toward efficient, satisfying work lives. And yet excising these bureaucratic elements from organizations would be nearly impossible. Projects that involve complex te [...]
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What Research Tells Us About How Women Are Treated at Work
We publish a lot of articles based on new research (you may have noticed). This year, some of our most viewed and shared stories were based on studies about women — and, more specifically, stories looking at differences in how men and women are treated, and behave, at work. I’ve summarized six below, including one where the office is actually a tennis court. A Study Used Sensors to Show That Men and Women Are Treated Differently at Work The question: Why do fewer women end up in senior positions than men? Is it because they have fewer mentors? Less face time with managers? Or [...]
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Customers Won’t Pay as Much for Digital Goods — and Research Explains Why
jeremy villasis/Getty Images Every day, we interact with two kinds of goods. The first kind is acquired and shared instantly, is weightless, impervious to damage, easy to customize, and impossible to lose. Even a child can carry thousands of it at a time. The second kind requires travel to acquire or share, is difficult to alter, cumbersome, easily lost, and can be damaged in a myriad of ways. Only a few of its kind can be crammed into a single bag. Despite the many advantages of the first kind –– digital goods — companies find again and again that people value and are will [...]
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Research: If You Position Products as a Set, People Are More Likely to Buy Them All
De Agostini/G. Cigolini/Getty Images It’s no secret that people like to finish things; there’s something deeply and inexplicably satisfying about crossing the last item off a to-do list or acquiring the final piece of a collectible set.  But just how far are people willing to go to achieve “completeness”?  Recent research I conducted with Leslie John, Elizabeth Keenan, and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School investigated whether it’s possible to harness this desire to motivate people in specific ways. In a series of studies, we used visual cues a [...]
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Research: Becoming a Manager Increases Men’s Job Satisfaction, But Not Women’s
HBR Staff Who wouldn’t want a promotion, particularly to a role with leadership responsibilities? It’s hard to argue against more power and more pay. And indeed, promotions to managerial roles are typically associated with an increase in job satisfaction. Management scholars and practitioners have long argued that employees value promotions not only for the accompanying boost in financial compensation but also because managerial positions offer more authority and opportunities for impactful work. Managers also have more job autonomy and decision power, as well as higher occupatio [...]
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Research: Men Get Credit for Voicing Ideas, but Not Problems. Women Don’t Get Credit for Either
Leigh Wells/Getty Images Employee voice, or speaking up with information intended to help one’s group, has tons of well-recognized benefits. It can improve performance, help teams come up with creative solutions, and avoid issues that might hold them back. A lot of research suggests that those who speak the most in groups tend to emerge as leaders. But does it matter who speaks up, or how they do it? In a forthcoming article in Academy of Management Journal, my colleagues Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, and Todd Woodruff and I share how we explored these questions in two studies. We fou [...]
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Research: Objective Performance Metrics Are Not Enough to Overcome Gender Bias
Tooga/Getty Images Imagine that you are choosing between two similar mutual funds, one managed by Marcus and the other by Tanya. Without additional differentiating information, there is no obvious reason to have a strong preference for one over the other. Yet in various contexts, such as entrepreneurship and hiring, people often exhibit a preference for men over women when information about an individual’s quality (for example, their expected performance) is unavailable or unclear. Even when performance information is available, lab-based research has shown that wom [...]
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The Case for Trash-Talking at Work, According to Research
Afanasia/iStock In 2000, British Airways sponsored the construction of the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel in the heart of London. When the builders encountered some technical difficulties while trying to erect the wheel, Richard Branson, the mercurial founder of rival airline Virgin Atlantic Airways, seized the opportunity. He arranged for a blimp to fly over the London Eye with a giant banner that read ‘‘BA can’t get it up!” Though executives are acutely attuned to the role of competition in the workplace, far less attention has been paid to the role of compe [...]
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Research: Companies Are Less Likely to Hire Current Military Reservists
Corey Rich/Getty Images Prior to 9/11, the obligation of the military’s Reserve Component servicemembers — more commonly known as reservists — was typically limited to training one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. In support of the extended military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, reservists have been required to serve as full-time members of the military for prolonged periods of time. A rough calculation suggests that in about half of all cases, reservists spent a year or more serving on full-time military duty, with the average dura [...]
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Research: Why Employer Support Is So Important for Transgender Employees
Sarah* is a high school teacher in a school district without much understanding or acceptance of transgender individuals. For years, she remained closeted about her gender identity due to fear over how her colleagues would respond. When Sarah finally decided to come out at work, the emotional and social consequences associated with being her true self became almost unbearable: “At school, I’m walking on eggshells, watching my back, being very protective, and having to stake out everything. There are days I call in [sick] from the parking lot because I get there and say ‘ [...]
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Research: For Better Brainstorming, Tell an Embarrassing Story
Vincent Tsui for HBR It was Alex Osborn, a 1960s advertising executive, who coined the term brainstorming. He passionately believed in the ability of teams  to generate brilliant ideas, provided they follow four rules: members should share any idea that came to mind, build on the ideas of others, avoid criticism, and, most notably, strive for quantity not quality.  Subsequent scientific research confirmed Osborn’s instincts: groups who follow his guidelines show more creativity than those who don’t. For example, in one study, brainstorming groups given quantity goals g [...]
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