The Year in Research: Top 10 of 2016

Each year, faculty of the University of Washington Foster School of Business produce influential research—on a wide array of topics—that advances academic theory and advises management practice. As we wind down the year 2016, here are 10 most-read research briefs on the Foster research site.

frustrated employee clenching fists; paper flying throughout office#1. Tiger Managers

Convincing employees to go above and beyond the call of duty may be the epitome of personnel management. But Scott Reynolds finds that pushing too hard to motivate “good soldiers” can backfire. Employees who feel compelled—even informally—to be a team player can develop a sense of moral entitlement that gives license to subsequently act badly in and out of the workplace.

vibrantly illustrated silhouettes of faces#2. Inappropriate Appropriation

Cleveland Indians. Atlanta Braves. Washington Redskins. Beyond being politically incorrect, are the names and mascots of these professional sports teams doing harm to the Native American peoples whose heritage they appropriate? A study by Mark Forehand finds evidence that such ethnic sports imagery does activate common stereotypes—though primarily among liberals, whose attitudes tend to be more malleable than those of conservatives.

vibrantly illustrated silhouettes of faces#3. March Market Madness

When the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off each spring, productivity suffers at workplaces across America. Jacob Thornock finds that the financial markets also feel the distraction of “March Madness.” During first-round games, which take place during business hours, the volume of trading drops by 40 percent and investor response to earnings news is comparably muted.

family with young children strolling down street during approaching sunset#4. Clouded Judgment

You are more likely to get a loan approved on an unexpectedly sunny day. A study by Ran Duchin reveals that the mood-boosting power of an unseasonably sunny day increases the approval rate of marginal loan applications, while the mood-busting quality of unusual cloud cover diminishes the approval rate. Sadly, loans approved in the throes of unexpected sunshine are more likely to wind up in default.

woman watering plants in field with windmills in background#5. Red Firm, Blue Firm

Do corporations have political leanings? Abhinav Gupta calculates a firm’s position on the left-right spectrum by tallying employee donations to political parties and candidates. Moreover, he finds that a firm’s political ideology predicts its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Specifically, companies with liberal-leaning employees are more likely to embrace CSR practices.

smiling man handing cashier credit card while female customer smiles in background#6. Queue Tips

Waiting in line has joined death and taxes on the short list of Most Inevitable Human Experiences. But which line to choose? Research by Masha Shunko shows that a system of “parallel” queues—each serviced by a dedicated cashier—can provide a more expedient delivery of customer service than a single-line model serviced by multiple cashiers. The reason: parallel queues promote accountability, even competition.

office coworkers speaking amiably in meeting room#7. Speak Up!

To speak or not to speak… What factors guide our decisions to express—or suppress—our opinions and ideas in a group? According to research by Xiao-Ping Chen, people are most likely to speak up in work teams when they believe that management will endorse their suggestions and that their input will be received positively by the group.

alert, confident employee in foreground; coworkers in background#8. Rest Inspired

Well-rested leaders are more capable of inspiring followers. And well-rested followers are more likely to be inspired by charismatic leaders. A study by Christopher Barnes finds that lack of quality sleep undermines both the experience of positive emotion and the regulation of emotion. This renders sleep-deprived leaders less able to inspire and their teams harder to inspire.

man in suit's hand pointing a data on bar chart sheet#9. Regulatory Oversight

Financial watchdogs may wield more bark than bite. But their bark alone can be a pretty effective deterrent against fraud. Terrence Blackburne’s analysis of regulatory oversight by the SEC reveals that an increase in budgetary capacity to review the financial disclosures of public firms corresponds to a decrease in earnings management and financial restatements.

screen of stock analysis data#10. Value v. Growth

Stephan Siegel’s twins study indicates that our tendency to invest in either value or growth stocks is influenced both by our genetic predispositions and by the economic environment we experienced as children and young adults. It also offers new evidence supporting both rational and behavioral explanations for the “value premium”—the consistent outperformance of value over growth stocks.

And two oldies-but-goodies

boss shaking hands with employee while patting him on the back; both smiling with satisfactionMorning Bias

The early bird gets the worm. And, it seems, the esteem of managers. Ryan Fehr and Chris Barnes document a distinct morning bias which may be undermining the benefit of flextime policies. Bosses implicitly regard employees who arrive bright and early as more conscientious and effective than their later-arriving colleagues. (from 2014)

retail worker smiling in foreground; decorated Christmas tree in backgroundChristmas Cheer?

“Service with a smile”—that fundamental expectation of American consumers—extracts a hidden toll on many who provide it. According to research by Ryan Fehr and Scott Reynolds, supervisors who frequently engage in “surface acting”—that is, suppressing negative or even neutral feelings in order to maintain a happy face to customers—are more abusive toward their employees. (from 2015)

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