Management Without Borders

As many of us get ready for the annual AOM conference, it is worthwhile considering the theme for a moment, “Opening Governance”. We are invited “ to consider opportunities to improve the effectiveness and creativity of organizations by restructuring systems at the highest organizational levels.”

I believe we can begin with ourselves, as professionals, by enhancing our ability to act as organizational catalysts, stakeholders, managers, and global leaders. Certainly, AOM has created some very important mechanisms to ensure fair and transparent governance, and we refer to our global responsibilities clearly in our code of ethics:

  1. To all people with whom we live and work in the world community.

Sensitivity to other people, to diverse cultures, to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, to ethical issues, and to newly emerging ethical dilemmas is required. We accomplish this aim through:  Worldview. Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community. In their role as educators, members of the Academy can play a vital role in encouraging a broader horizon for decision making by viewing issues from a multiplicity of perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are the least advantaged.

Like most of you, I’ve attended numerous academic conferences where great world issues are actively discussed and debated, including the relevance of management scholarship, of public policy research, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the like. Yet, as I think of our activities revolving around our conference and our professional roles, I often come up empty handed regarding the actual contribution our field makes in today’s current environments, particularly on a global basis. Most of us are fortunate enough to have established positions in wealthy ‘western/northern’ countries. We are rarely forced to worry about basic health care, nutrition, housing, and education, never mind political instability, personal freedom, safety and security, all of concern to most of the world’s population.

Henry Mintzberg, in his most recent book “Rebalancing Society” points out the need for a balance between government, business, and civil society (often referred to as the third sector, or by Mintzberg as the plural sector). He argues that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 was due to an imbalance (overly centralized government unbalanced with other forces) rather than a triumph of capitalism over communism. Our responsibility – as elite professional intellectuals – arguably includes helping to re-establish a balance that, according to Mintzberg (as well as many other scholars of public policy who examine empirical evidence) has become skewed, pushing civil society into the margins as a minority position. Resulting inequality, one consequence, should concern us all.

So, besides attending a conference exploring good governance, what else can we academicians do? What if the Academy developed and sponsored an ‘Academic Management Without Borders’ program? Is there any interest out there?

It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….

The Ethicist LogoThanks! It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….


As Thomas Basboll’s post on THE ETHICIST (February 2, 2015) indicates, it is time for THE ETHICIST to engage in “A Change of Pace,” and take on new bloggers. We are delighted that the Academy of Management is continuing with this important community engagement space, and that Benson Honig and Thomas Basboll are taking on the lead blogging roles. We have a significant sense of ownership over the future of THE ETHICIST and plan to continue to be part of the blog, writing from time to time ourselves, as the blog moves ahead with new authors, editors and topics.

As we look back on the last several years since the inception of THE ETHICIST, it’s interesting to see how blogging itself has evolved. Much of the advice of best blogging practices reinforces what Thomas will change about THE ETHICIST, including shorter and more frequent posts, and expanding the scope of the discussions.  The international diplomacy-building organization DiploFoundation recommends using the “E.K.G.” approach for blogging: Engage with other blogs and your own readers, Keep the material fresh and exciting, and Give people a reason to return. The blog hosting site HubSpot says readers want to see the blogger’s personality come out, and that readers come back to blogs that treat topics in unusual and cross-disciplinary ways. All of this advice mirrors plans for THE ETHICIST and we are looking forward to seeing energetic treatment of ethical issues.

The common advice about blogging — no matter whose advice one takes — revolves around content: compelling, thoughtful and timely content is the make-or-break blog factor. And in this respect, we are confident that THE ETHICIST will broaden its community reach with Thomas and Benson at the helm. There is so much to share about how the Academy is integrating ethical practice into meetings and member resources, and how we as an academic community are grappling with significant ethical questions. All five of us are members of the Ethics Education Committee; we have facilitated lively discussions throughout the Academy in multiple ways and venues: at doctoral consortia, via webinars, through YouTube video discussions, and in myriad annual meeting sessions. We have found our fellow Academy members, particularly doctoral students, to be enormously interested in how to do the right thing, and how to resolve conflicts in ethics in ways that allow them to flourish.

Thank you to everyone who has supported THE ETHICIST so far. We gratefully acknowledge in particular the help of Terese Loncar; our advisory panels for research, teaching and professional life;  members of the Ethics Education Committee and the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management; and our home departments. We look forward to the great new conversations and connections to be made ahead.

Lorraine, Kathy & Paul

Lorraine Eden
Lorraine Eden
Kathy Lund Dean
Kathy Lund Dean
Paul Vaaler
Paul Vaaler


Ethical Issues in Professional Life: Tribalism

Apologies for Some Rip Van Winkle-ism

Your professional life correspondent took a literary nap that let April pass without a post.  My apologies to the Ethicist, to my fellow correspondents, and to our (growing) readership.  I’ve wandered back to town, trimmed the beard, and found quill, ink and parchment.  In other words, the semester’s teaching is done.  Now to this (last) month’s topic.

A Great Paper from “Outsiders”

I’ll get to the topic momentarily, but first a vignette about an article.  My research interests include issues related to international business (“IB”), that is, issues about multinational firms and cross-border transactions.  So I am a faithful reader and occasional contributor to the Journal of International Business Studies (“JIBS”).  A relatively recent JIBS article is also one of my favorites.  It’s a 2010 article by Nathan Jensen, Quan Li and Aminur Rahman about apparently unaddressed challenges associated with using data from certain cross-national firm-level surveys popular with IB and related management scholars (Jensen, N., Li, Q., & Rahman, A. 2010.  Understanding corruption and firm responses in cross-national firm-level surveys.  Journal of International Business Studies, 41:  1481-1504).  Jensen, Li and Rahman develop and test a theory of under-response and false response biasing measures derived from those cross-national surveys, which ask questions about bribery and corruption faced by local businesses.

Here’s their theory in brief.  Individuals from firms in politically-repressive countries are less likely to respond at all or respond truthfully to questions about bribery and corruption.  Respondents in those countries fear that their response will get back to the local mayor, chief of police or party official shaking them down for a “contribution” important to continued business survival and success. Better either to not respond or respond that there’s little or no bribery or corruption.  Here’s their evidence in brief.  Non-response rates in a prominent cross-country survey by the World Bank increase with lower levels of press freedom in a given country.  False report rates also increase with less press freedom.  Respondents tell the World Bank surveyor that corruption isn’t as severe as alternative non-survey measures indicate.  The end result is that some of the most frequently used survey data on bribery, corruption and related cross-country business issues (e.g., quality of the business environment) are biased.  At a minimum, there are important adjustments for researchers to make if using these survey data.  Most haven’t, so publications based on such “evidence” merit renewed scrutiny and revision.

Jensen, Li and Rahman might not be familiar names in IB and management journals.  Jensen and Li are political scientists, and quite productive researchers in journals within the political science field.  Rahman is an economist at the World Bank.  They’re not rank-and-file management faculty in a business school regularly attending the Academy of Management meetings.  They’re “outsiders” who crossed disciplinary and professional boundaries to submit, revise and publish provocative research with a stinging critique of an empirical research stream in our field.  Way to go.

Why doesn’t this happen more often?  The answer is tribalism.  Finally, my topic for the blog.

Disciplinary Tribalism                                                                                                                       

There is more than a little tribalism in the Academy.  By tribalism, I mean that researchers in one discipline have a tendency to ignore much of the work on a common topic of interest another group of scholars are addressing in another discipline.  Maybe it’s research and researchers in psychology and management asking common questions about why individuals and firms escalate commitments in an apparently irrational way.  Maybe it’s research and researchers in law and political science asking common questions about constitutions and the quality of government.  In any case, we tend to look inward at our disciplinary “tribe” for reference regarding which scholars, ideas and publications are relevant for a given topic of discussion and debate.  We look less often, if at all, outside our field for insight on the same topic. Discipline-based professional associations, conferences and journals reinforce this inward-looking tendency.  I’ll admit that we need some tribal lines in order to define intellectually-distinct fields, set professional standards and qualifications, and more generally bring order to what is and isn’t immediately relevant to our work.  That aside, though, the inward-looking trope is probably not a good thing.  Tribalism raises barriers.  It limits outside voices in discussion and debate.  It leads to intra-disciplinary navel-gazing.

Crossing Tribal Lines:  Individually and Collectively

There are things we can do as individuals and as a groups to deal with some of tribalism’s negatives.  Individually, it’s possible to look outside many ways. Offer a class with a cross-listing in another department (good) or in another college (even better).  Serve on a masters or doctoral thesis committee in another field dealing with a research topic that overlaps with your own interests.  Attend, serve on a panel, submit and present research in progress at a professional meeting in another disciplinary field –economics, political science, engineering, sociology, law.

Of course, published scholarly research is foundational to career development in research universities. So submitting to, revising and, ultimately, publishing in high-quality journals outside your primary field constitutes a strong blow against tribalism.  But it’s difficult.  Tribalism has some strong defenders, and as I noted earlier, their defense is sometimes justified, and often well-meaning.  For researchers looking to cross lines, the barriers put up by their own tribe can be substantial.  The range of acceptably “high-quality” journals is almost always longer within your disciplinary field (tribe) than it is in almost any other field.  That’s usually because we know less than we think about those other fields.  In my Department of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management, there is no list of high-quality journals in management.  (I guess we’re supposed to just know what they are.)  I recently asked an SME colleague what s/he thought was a high-quality journal in political science.  S/he spent a few seconds thinking, and then told me, “I know, I know. Journal of Political Economy.”  Nice try.  Tribal defenders may have a very short written or mental list of outside journals that “count” for tenure and promotion purposes.  That can be a pretty strong deterrent to crossing lines for research and journal publication outside your primary field.  That helps me understand why articles by the Jensen, Li and Rahman’s of this world are infrequent.

Collectively, there are other initiatives worth thinking about to combat tribalism.  I’ve mentioned some teaching and service initiatives for individuals to consider.  Commendation of (or at least indifference to) such efforts from departmental faculty colleagues, departmental chairs, and college deans would be helpful.  Research-wise, I can think of few more important individuals to fight tribalism for the rest of us than journal editors.  It was not an accident that Jensen, Li and Rahman submitted their manuscript to JIBS.  Their submission followed presentation of the paper at an inter-disciplinary conference with editorial team members from JIBS in attendance.  No doubt, they received encouragement to go further and submit the paper to the journal for review.   The JIBS editor-in-chief at the time made it part of her mission to attend and speak at conferences outside IB and management.  I attended a political science conference where she gave one of those speeches.  She emphasized the inter-disciplinary nature of the journal and its openness to research submissions from other disciplines.  Such efforts to fight tribalism paid off with more submissions from scholars outside the IB and management rank and file, and more notice of (and citation to) JIBS articles.   I am pretty sure the outside submissions got just as tough a review as rank-and-file submitters.  I noted  three revisions over more than a year for the Jensen, Li and Rahman article. It was no quick hit.  Tough, constructive reviews from JIBS editorial board members likely made the article better for an intended audience that begins with IB and management scholars but goes beyond that to others outside our tribe.

How often does that happen at other journals?

Your Tribe, But Also Your Career

As I said earlier, some tribalism is inevitable and not unwelcome.  For doctoral students and junior faculty striving to develop a research agenda and reputation, tribal lines help.  Early in a career, the lines help us understand which people, institutions, conferences and publication outlets will support that agenda and recognize that growing reputation sooner.  But an academic career isn’t always so instrumentally driven.  We are lucky.  We get paid to find interesting intellectual debates, learn the issues guiding it, and then weigh in with sound thinking grounded in rigorous theory and broad-based evidence.  As careers develop, maybe the location of those debates should matter a little less.  If they are outside your department or college, go forth and weigh in.  Push that further.  Find those outside debates, weigh in, and then translate their implications for others in our home department and college –our tribe.  Prompt colleagues down the hall to look outward rather than inward.

Why not?  Strike a blow against tribalism.  And enrich your career.

Please address your comments to:

Paul M. Vaaler

Department of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship

Carlson School of Management

University of Minnesota

3-424 CarlSMgmt

321 19th Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tel (612) 625-4951

Fax (612) 626-1316


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Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013

With the February 2013 blog post on “Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?”,  The Ethicist has now published two dozen blogs on three areas of ethics that affect not only AOM members, but all members of the scholarly professions: research, teaching and professional life. Links to each of these posts are provided below, together with a downloadable one-page PDF for printing and circulation. Enjoy!


Continue reading “Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013”

Job Offers

When Is a Job Offer Really a Job Offer in Academia?


It may sound like a silly question.  Or maybe it sounds like a question on the final exam of some first-year law student’s Contracts course –often another forum for silliness.  But it’s not so silly when you receive a phone call, email or letter from some departmental, college or university official asking you to move across the country or across the world to take a new job.  And it’s not so silly when you are on the other end of that transaction doing the asking –some might say wooing— to get a would-be colleague to move across the country or world.


Offers and acceptances are part of everyday life, so we tend to think that we know them when hear, read one and or write them.  But it might be a little more complicated when it comes to a job-offer, especially when the job is for a senior faculty position with tenure.  And some of the complications have, I think, substantial ethical dimensions.  Even if the job-offer doesn’t include tenure, there are some less-than-obvious process issues worth thinking about so that academics on both sides of the prospective transaction do the right thing.  So let me start the new calendar year with my own take on some ethical issues associated with job-offers in academia:  what they should include; how they should be conveyed; what contingencies might render a “job offer” moot; and how to respond to contingent and non-contingent offers so that you are fair to both your current and prospective future institution.

Continue reading “Job Offers”

The Thought Leader Series: Michael A. Hitt on Ethics in Research

Michael A. Hitt

KEY INSIGHT:  Michael A. Hitt is one of the world’s most respected and prolific management scholars. In this blog, Professor Hitt discusses the ethics of research based on his many years of working in collaborative groups and with PhD students. This blog posting is the first of a series of interviews of thought leaders in our profession, asking them about their views and experience with ethical issues.


Professional Life: Attending Professional Meetings

Showing Up

The US comedian and movie director, Woody Allen, once said that 80% of success is showing up.  When it comes to professional meetings, there’s more than a little truth in his claim.  Think about an Academy of Management (AoM) annual meeting.  It would be a rather short and uninteresting event if only a few showed up.  Charles Jamison presided over the second meeting of the AoM in Philadelphia back in 1934.  There were 24 attendees.  Jump ahead to 2000 when Dave Whetten presided over an AoM meeting in Toronto with more than 5500 attendees drawn from a membership exceeding 11,000.  There were thousands of opportunities to hear paper presentations at competitively-selected panel sessions, symposia, caucus meetings, keynote addresses, receptions, and informal gatherings.  I wouldn’t guarantee that every paper or presentation was ready for verbatim publication in one of the AoM journals.  But there were in 2000 and continues to be in 2012 great opportunities to see, hear and learn from a diverse group of scholars and scholarship at AoM meetings.  And it happens in one place over a few days.  Quantity has a quality all its own.  And when you show up, you promote both.

Continue reading “Professional Life: Attending Professional Meetings”

Happy Birthday! Taking Stock of THE ETHICIST’s First Year

KEY INSIGHT:  THE ETHICIST has been running as a blog on AOM Connect for a year now so it makes sense for its creators and bloggers to take stock of what the blog has (and has not) accomplished over the past year, and to think creatively about how to move ahead.  We will hold a Caucus session, “THE ETHICIST: THE INFORMAL ECONOMY AND SCHOLARSHIP, TEACHING AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE ETHICS,” to discuss this issue at the Boston AOM annual meetings in August 2012. Please join us!

Continue reading “Happy Birthday! Taking Stock of THE ETHICIST’s First Year”

Ethical Issues in Professional Life: Outside Appointments

The Producers Problem

One of my favorite movies is The Producers, and here I mean the original version from 1968 directed by Mel Brooks and starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (not the 2005 re-make starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick).  For those of you unfamiliar with this comedy, here is the basic plot.  A ne’er-do-well Broadway director (Mostel) and his accountant (Wilder) hatch a scheme to make money by producing a play that flops.  The duo will go to backers and raise thousands more than is needed to produce a play.  Of course, they’ll have to sell more than 100% of the profits to raise all of that money, but as long as the show flops –preferably closes on opening night– the backers will expect neither the return of their invested principal nor any profits.  The duo can take the remaining money and head to Rio de Janeiro.  Ah, but if the play is a hit then they’re in big trouble, because they’ve promised much more than 100% of the profits to the backers.[1]  Of course, they end up inadvertently producing a hit musical comedy (improbably titled “Springtime for Hitler”), which lands them in jail for fraud, where they start producing and over-selling yet another musical (more appropriately titled “Prisoners of Love”).  That’s Mel Brooks.

Continue reading “Ethical Issues in Professional Life: Outside Appointments”

Peer Reviewing

Incredible Generosity

December is supposedly the “holiday” month of gift-giving, but recent experience as a track chair for the 2012 Academy of International Business (“AIB”) annual meeting tells me that the real gift-giving time, at least professionally, is from mid-January to mid-February.  It was during those weeks that so many of my AIB peers gave their time and attention to read and review more than 150 papers submitted to my track for competitive or interactive presentation at this summer’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.  My goal was to get multiple reviews for every submission and get them in about four weeks. Virtually every AIB member submitting a paper got a paper.  Several got more than one paper to review.  More than a few got several papers from me, from other AIB track chairs, and from our counterparts over at the Academy of Management.  Four weeks later, practically everyone had submitted their reviews, whether it was just one or several from those “overfished” reviewers.  It was amazing to observe.  And it’s critically important to preserve and nurture.  So that’s my topic for the month:  peer review and its importance in our professional lives; peer review and the motivations of peer reviewers; and how we might do a little less  “overfishing” of some especially good and generous peer reviewers.  Continue reading “Peer Reviewing”