In line with our mission, the Berkeley Culture Initiative is pleased to offer, for the first time, research grants for faculty and doctoral students who are conducting research on organizational culture. Please see below for summaries of the projects we are supporting this year.

Faculty Grants: 

Dr. Douglas Guilbeault,Network Effects on the Social Construction of Emotion in Organizations” 

Emotions are a fundamental driver of organizational culture. Firm performance is heavily shaped by emotional dynamics, which influence everything from employee motivation and loyalty, to innovation and teamwork. However, there is ongoing debate about how people categorize emotion – and in particular, whether emotions are socially constructed or psychologically universal – with far reaching implications for how emotion is measured and managed in organizations. This project aims to advance this debate by using a large-scale online social network experiment – called the Grouping Game – which provides unprecedented precision in measuring the social construction of categories in teams. Building on my recent experimental work, this study tests a novel prediction, namely that small teams will construct unique and divergent categorizations of emotions, whereas separate large teams will independently converge on similar categorizations of emotions. This hypothesis will be tested by using the Grouping Game to evaluate how teams of managers categorize emotions in the faces of employees. Confirming this hypothesis will provide experimental evidence for the argument that social network dynamics can induce patterns of universality in emotion categorization, which nevertheless varies considerably at the individual level. This finding would suggest that organizations can play a prominent role in shaping how employees categorize emotional experiences by altering the structure of their social interactions. However, if emotions are determined by cognitive universals, then organizations are better off focusing on measuring and harnessing the universal emotional experiences that drive individual and group behavior.

Heather Haveman, “Gendered Perceptions of Tech Firms”

Gender inequality at work has persisted despite decades of protest and regulation.  The tech sector in particular has a long-standing gender problem:  women are underrepresented among technologists and managers, especially in the top ranks, and women complain about misogynistic cultures and practices.  We study one factor that can create and maintain such gender-based inequalities:  workplace norms and practices concerning around-the-clock worker availability.  Such norms and practices may appear unbiased on their face, but they can have disproportionately negative effects on female employees because women do more domestic labor than men.  It is difficult to investigate this phenomenon at scale because it is difficult to get reliable and comparable data on practices and norms in large samples.  To do so, we leveraged text data from a web portal, Glassdoor.com, which records employee descriptions of their firms and deployed natural-language processing techniques to analyze those descriptions.

David Holtz, “Cracking the Coding Interview”

Previous research has documented race and gender disparities in STEM professions, including shifting standards and biased evaluations. However, because prior studies have mostly focused on static characteristics and the outcomes of evaluations, rather than evaluation processes themselves, we know little about how the actual behaviors of interviewer and interviewees during interviews, such as the specific questions that are asked, how interviewees respond (or fail to respond), and the tone of interviewees’ speech, affect evaluations and hiring outcomes. In this project, we plan to analyze audio, code output, post-interview evaluations, and metadata from over 20,000 interviews hosted on an anonymous platform for software engineering interviews in order to understand what happens in technical coding interviews that leads evaluators to tend to favor certain types of job seekers over others.

Leif Nelson, “Validating a New Tool for Understanding Cultural Differences within China and in Relation to the United States”

International business increasingly runs through China, but Chinese cultural forces have remained partially or substantially cryptic to business leaders in the United States and in Europe. Understanding cultural forces within China and in relation to the West can facilitate communication and collaboration across those international borders. The unambiguous benefit of understanding has been limited by missing tools for scientific measurement. Existing efforts to understand Chinese culture have largely relied on convenience samples (e.g., undergraduates; Talhelm et al., 2014), partially limiting insights. Very recently, online platforms have emerged that enable researchers to reach a large and potentially representative sample of Chinese residents. Those platforms hold enormous promise, but have yet to be scientifically validated. We aim to better understand those platforms by focusing on some of the cultural variables that have been particularly influential in understanding management and organizations: cultural tightness, cognitive patterns, and personality. Our data will enable us to (a) assess the Chinese population relative to that of the United States, (b) explore regional variation within China, and most crucially, (c) establish the viability of the platform for future social science and business researchers. A successful project should partially close the gap in cultural understanding and will lay the foundation for a generation of researchers to close it even further.

Doctoral Student Grants: 

Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, “Employee Activism: Organizing for an Equitable and Ethical Workplace”

Over the past decade, U.S. employees have engaged in heightened levels of workplace activism at companies such as Google, Netflix, and Disney. Who becomes an employee activist and why? Does employee activism lead to greater satisfaction and improved community well-being in the workplace? In my research, I explore what I call the “paradox of activism”. Employees are more likely to have values that match those of their employer and social movement participants tend to have stronger commitments to the values of the impacted community. Employee activists combine the traits of both groups in a way that suggests they should be among the most committed workers within an organization. Nevertheless, employee activism is often perceived as disruptive in the workplace and the consequences of activism on employee satisfaction and retention remain poorly understood. To analyze the motivations for and consequences of employee activism, I will conduct a longitudinal interview-based study of undergraduates recruiting into the U.S. technology industry so as to capture values and attitudes before and after entering the workplace. Understanding the role of employee activism contributes to our understanding of how workers shape their workplaces to be equitable, ethical, and engaged environments.