Research in Progress

Working Papers

A Paper on an Intervention to Racial Minority Job Seekers*

Revise and Resubmit at Management Science (with András Tilcsik)


Organizational efforts aimed at reducing racial inequality in the workplace have proliferated in recent years, often targeting the demand side of the labor market. We focus here on a supply-side intervention intended to benefit racial minority job seekers. Research in psychology, education, and behavioral medicine shows that a self-affirmation intervention—a writing exercise in which participants affirm the importance of their core personal values—helps people maintain a positive sense of self and facilitates more adaptive responses to the psychological threat of negative stereotypes. In a field experiment with 219 incoming MBA students at a North American university, we measured the effect of a self-affirmation intervention on students’ job search behaviors and internship placement outcomes and, for a subsample, observed full-time job placement as well. Self-affirmed (versus unaffirmed) racial minority students attended fewer recruitment events of lower-ranked employers—without reducing their attendance at highly ranked firms’ events—and were subsequently more likely to receive internship and full-time offers from highly ranked employers. Similarly, in a survey experiment with 2,000 active job seekers, self-affirmed (versus unaffirmed) racial minority participants indicated they would apply to fewer but, on average, more highly ranked employers. Highlighting a potential mechanism for this effect, the survey experiment shows that self-affirmation boosted racial minority applicants’ confidence in their ability to get a good job, even though it did not lower their expectations of employment discrimination. These results illuminate an inexpensive and soft-touch intervention that—combined with complementary institutional efforts—may help reduce racial inequality at work.

* Title hidden as per double-blind review guidelines

A Paper on Theory Borrowing in Organization Theory*

Revise and Resubmit at Organization Theory (with Brian Park, Nelson Phillips and Eunhee Sohn)


Since the inception of organization studies, scholars have actively adopted new theories from other disciplines. Furthermore, interest among organization studies researchers in theory borrowing has increased recently as various new external disciplines have developed with important applications in organization studies including artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, machine/deep learning, robotics, and platforms. However, despite the interest in theory borrowing, we still lack a systematic understanding of which borrowed theory is most likely to survive in organization studies. We propose that evolutionary epistemology provides a useful lens to explore when and why a theory borrowed from an external field is likely to survive in organization studies. In this paper, we extend and develop evolutionary epistemology, identifying the mechanisms that explain how theory borrowing happens and predict when theories borrowed from external fields will be adopted and survive as organization theories. Such mechanisms include the addition of metaphor (for variation), the existence of a theoretical counterpart and methodological testability (for selection), and theoretical migration and methodological extension (for retention). We also provide implications for predicting theory adoption and survival in the organization studies field and beyond.

* Title hidden as per double-blind review guidelines

Racial Minority Representation on the Board and Foreign Competition Threat

(with Yonghoon G. Lee)


The underrepresentation of racial minority directors on corporate boards has been widely recognized as a challenging issue for Corporate America. In this paper, we propose a novel mechanism by which boards of directors can improve the representation of racial minority directors. We draw on a branch of social categorization theory and argue that competition threat from a foreign source alleviates intergroup biases of directors with the dominant racial background against directors from underrepresented groups because the common threat helps racial minority directors be recategorized as part of the ingroup. We theorize that this can improve the representation of racial minorities on the board. Leveraging an exogenous shock that increased foreign competition threats for large U.S. manufacturing firms, our empirical investigation shows that firms exposed to high foreign competition threat recognized the competitive threat from a foreign source more frequently and expressed a greater sense of “we-ness”—a sense of belonging to a common group—in their annual reports than firms exposed to low foreign competition threat. Our difference-in-differences analysis further indicates that firms exposed to high foreign competition threats are 15% more likely to include directors from underrepresented racial groups on their boards after the shock than those that are not as much exposed. At the same time, we find no evidence that such an increase in racial minority representation is driven by firms’ strategic responses to foreign competition threats, sorting and discrimination corrections in the director search or institutional pressures. Taken together, our study provides important insight into a source and a potential remedy of underrepresentation of racial minority directors.

How Do Investors Evaluate Co-Founder Breakups? The Role of Breakup Rationale and Co-founder Gender

Finalist for Best PhD Paper (SMS 2022) for the PhD student co-author (with Naja Pape)


Scholarly and anecdotal evidence show co-founder breakup – the replacement or the departure of a cofounder – is common in early entrepreneurial teams. In the absence of objective evidence on inherent venture quality, investors evaluate young start-ups using diverse quality signals based on the limited information available about the founding team. We show co-founder breakups work as “soft” data, informing investors about the quality of the founding team and thereby affecting their evaluations. In parallel with in-depth interview with professional investors, we conduct two pre-registered survey experiments on 1,452 individuals who experienced start-up funding in forms of crowd-funders, business angels and venture capitalists. These investors were assigned to evaluate start-ups with versus without co-founder breakup but for the same and actual business case. Study 1, showed that investors perceived the quality of start-ups whose team experienced co-founder breakups (compared to start-ups whose team did not experience co-founder breakups) as lower in terms of its viability, competence, and warmth and they were less likely to invest. This penalty is more salient when the breakup is among female co-founders than male co-founders. Study 2 showed that the penalty is reduced when the breakup is due to a business-related reason (e.g., unmatched skill). In contrast, we find co-founder breakup due to personal and emotional conflicts among co-founders significantly increases the penalty, particularly for female-led start-ups. When co-founders broke, relative to male-led start-ups, female-led start-ups have a 30.1% lower chance of receiving funding, and conditional on receiving investment, receive a 28.5% smaller amount. We find no significant gender differences in funding likelihood and investment amounts among start-ups without co-founder breakup.

The Mind of the Network Broker

(with Yonghoon G. Lee and Tiziana Casciaro)


Adapting to network contacts’ incompatible expectations and engaging with these expectations instrumentally can elicit cognitive dissonance in people occupying network brokerage and make others perceive the brokers negatively, which can threaten brokers’ self-integrity—the sense of being a good and appropriate person. We argue that network brokers cope with the threat to their self-integrity with motivated perceptions of their disconnected contacts that help them justify the lack of social ties between their contacts: namely, brokers tend to perceive their disconnected contacts as being “meant to be disconnected.” To corroborate the mechanism underlying this hypothesis, we further argue that this perception of disconnected contacts is attenuated through self-affirmation of brokers’ personal values unrelated to the threat, because self-affirmation decreases the threat to their self-integrity and enhances their self-view. We find support of our hypotheses in an experimental study that uses a novel paradigm to experimentally manipulate network positions. We find additional and complementary support from a field study of 170 professionals working in 26 teams in the finance, fashion, and the electric power industries, where network brokers perceive disconnected alters with little intention to socially integrate. From our theory and findings, we advance a view of brokerage as a psychological phenomenon, in addition to a structural one.


In Progress

How do racial minority founders find their co-founders? (with Balagopal Vissa and Naja Pape)

How do ascriptive minority job candidates react to AI-centered hiring processes? (with András Tilcsik)

Board diversity as an organizational goal (with Yonghoon G. Lee)