Work and Organization Studies

Work and Organization Studies

The Work and Organization Studies group reflects the diverse disciplinary backgrounds and research methods of the faculty, including social psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, labor economics and industrial relations. Connecting these diverse researchers is a focus on real phenomena (actual behavior, actual organizations) and a belief that the complexity of organizational life requires flexible approaches and appreciation for the value of multiple disciplines.

More About WOS

The nature of work, the organizations in which people work, and the social institutions that shape work and work organizations have changed dramatically in response to social and technological changes, from the Industrial Revolution to the Computer Revolution, from the rise of unions to the diversity of workers throughout the economy.  Work and Organization Studies faculty have been at the forefront of research and policy development.  Many of the fields of study, research methods, theoretical concepts, managerial innovations and public policies that we take for granted were nurtured at Sloan over the past decades, including group dynamics, leadership, culture, careers, organizational change, negotiations and conflict resolution, work-family relations, and labor market institutions. 

Our faculty continue to study and teach about the concepts and skills needed to build a more productive and equitable work environment at the institutional, organizational, and individual levels.  We study how organizations are flattening, partnering, globalizing, and innovating in myriad ways in order to be competitive and flexible in a rapidly changing world.  Our work helps shape the policies that can enhance job creation and reduce inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunity.  The boundaries between work and family, government and industry, and organizations and supply chains are increasingly fluid.  Ultimately, individuals must take action based on enhanced skills at leading, negotiating, managing work and family obligations, and seeing interconnected human systems.

A Brief History

In 2014, the Work and Organization Studies (WOS) Group formed as a merger of the Organization Studies Group (OSG) and the Institute for Work and Employment (IWER).  OSG and IWER have long and distinguished histories.  OSG has traditionally drawn upon social psychology, sociology, history, and anthropology, whereas IWER has its roots in labor economics and industrial relations.  OSG and IWER also share a long tradition of collaboration which includes coauthoring a textbook and co-teaching the core MBA course on “Organizational Processes” that has influenced generations of students and building together a foundation of scholarship at MIT that has shaped much of modern thinking about work and organizations.   Our shared history includes Kurt Lewin’s founding of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at MIT in the 1940s, Douglas McGregor’s challenge to rethink the assumptions underlying how to motivate employees (Theory X and Theory Y) and Charlie Myers’ foundational work on industrial relations and global industrialization.  In the 1960s and 1970s there were Warren Bennis’ inspiring work on leadership and Edgar Schein’s transformative ideas about organizational culture, Lotte Bailyn’s reimagining of the integration of work and family, Robert McKersie’s restructuring of labor-management negotiations, Michael Piore’s concepts of internal labor markets and flexible specialization, Phyllis Wallace’s pioneering work on discrimination in the workplace, and Tom Allen’s studies of communication networks.  The “Faculty & Research Centers” tab provides information describing the work of current WOS faculty.