Work and Organization Studies

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  • Understanding organizations
    Reinventing the workplace

    Understanding organizations

    Exploring how we lead, manage, and work

    Reinventing the workplace

    Transformative research on labor and employment relationships

  • It would be hard to imagine a better moment in history to study and influence the research and policies affecting organizations, work, and employment. The upheaval in institutions, organizations, and individuals’ work lives is dramatic and disruptive.

    At the institutional level, we are in the midst of a persistent, worldwide employment crisis, with a jobs deficit carried forward from the Great Recession and a long-term trend of stagnating wages and growing inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunity.

    At the organizational level, we continue to see rapid transformation in the nature of organizations, work, and people. Organizations are flattening, partnering, globalizing, outsourcing, open sourcing, downsizing, reengineering, and innovating in myriad ways in order to be competitive, innovative, and flexible in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. The boundaries between work and family, government and industry, and organizations and supply chains are increasingly fluid.

    At the individual level, we see the necessity for new skills at negotiating, managing work and family obligations, and seeing interconnected human systems; we see new ways of leading, often in a distributed way and in virtual environments; we see new diversity in the work force and the misalignment of individual needs and cultural expectations and stereotypes; and we see women and people of color continue to be disadvantaged, exacerbating the inequalities that already exist.

    These are the pressing issues that the faculty and students in WOS are investigating. They are addressing critical questions pertaining to work, organizational design, leadership and change, negotiations and conflict resolution, decision-making, careers, and labor market institutions and policy making. 

  • Focus On: WOS Welcomes Erin L. Kelly to our Faculty!

    We are delighted to announce that Professor Erin Kelly will join the WOS and MIT Sloan School faculty in fall 2015. Welcome Erin!

    Erin is currently is the Martindale Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and the Director of the Life Course Center. Her research focuses on the processes that lead firms to adopt new human resource policies and the impacts of these polices on employee wellbeing and organizational performance. She is one of the nation’s leading experts on work-life policies and programs and has led teams of researchers in the design and analysis of experiments in organizations designed to improve work-life integration and balance.

    “Over the past decade I have studied a variety of workplace policies and practices that challenge expectations carried over from an earlier industrial era and a workforce dominated by male breadwinners. The old assumptions were that “ideal workers” were willing and able to work long hours (usually in the office), have uninterrupted careers, and organize their daily lives around their paid work since they presumably relied on a wife at home to attend to family and community responsibilities.

    The workforce has changed but workplaces have not fully adapted to that reality; when these old assumptions still operate, gender inequality is reinforced in workplaces. Much of my research asks whether, why, and to what extent U.S. workplaces have moved beyond the old vision of careers and what will be needed to diffuse more flexible work practices across the economy.

    My early work demonstrated how government policy changes spur the initial diffusion of new HR practices. I showed that corporate work‐life policies have been fundamentally structured by public policy, including anti‐discrimination regulations and tax law, even though the U.S. has minimal family policies compared to other countries. I asked why some organizations provided family leaves before federal law required them to do so. My research also demonstrated that many organizations failed to fully comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act.

    My more recent work has been inside firms, and it indicates that the specific strategies organizations pursue to implement “workplace flexibility” are critical. I demonstrated that changes in firm‐level HR practices positively affect employee welfare and organizational outcomes when work processes engage and provide greater control to employees.”