Kimberly D. Elsbach
Associate Dean and Professor of Organizational Behavior
“Leadership happens every moment of every day. You always have an opportunity to influence what other people do and why they do it by being a role model. I help students understand their leadership strengths and weaknesses, pushing them to work outside of their comfort zones—for instance, by encouraging those who are not ‘natural leaders’ to take the initiative.”
- The Individual & Group Dynamics
- Negotiation in Organizations
- Business Policy and Strategy
Research Expertise: Leadership in organizations; perception and management of individual and organizational images; identities and reputations, especially images of legitimacy, trustworthiness and creativity
- Ph.D., Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Stanford University
- M.S., Industrial and Management Engineering University of Iowa
- B.S., Industrial and Management Engineering University of Iowa
- International Research Fellow, Centre for Corporate Reputation, Oxford University
- NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative and National Champion Masters Swimmer
- Past UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellow
- Globally visible expert in organizational behavior
Professor Kimberly Elsbach focuses her research on the acquisition and maintenance of organizational images, identities and reputations, especially images of legitimacy, trustworthiness and creativity. She also teaches and studies negotiation skills in competitive business environments. Her research provides a framework for communicating with shareholders, customers and employees in the immediacy of a reputation crisis and through long-term recovery. In papers published in the Harvard Business Review and the Academy of Management Journal, Elsbach showed how Hollywood movie and television producers judge the creativity of people pitching story ideas.
Elsbach has published extensively on organizational reputations and controversies. She has studied the impacts of telecommuting and how firms and employees have dealt with the transformation of their workplace from a traditional office to a “hoteling” environment, in which employee have no permanent offices and reserve workspaces on a daily basis.
Elsbach is an International Research Fellow at the Centre for Corporate Reputation, Oxford University.
This article profiles Professor Kimberley Elsbach, and charts her circuitous route into the academic world. “My father was a professor in the medical school at the University of South Dakota, so I grew up in a college town, kind of like Davis only smaller, and I really was drawn to the lifestyle of an academic,” she said.
Davis Qualitative Methods Workshop
An intensive 3-day experiential workshop in qualitative research methods for studying organizations
Hosted by Professor Andrew Hargadon, Professor Kimberly Elsbach and Associate Professor Beth Bechky, this intensive workshop offered participants a conceptual and practical understanding of qualitative research methods. Drawing on their combined expertise, Hargadon, Elsbach and Bechky led three days of sessions and fieldwork on how and when to use qualitative data collection and analysis techniques, as well as how to craft a contribution to the field.
Got desk? As companies seek to cut costs and accommodate an increasingly mobile work force, some employees have had to say goodbye to their personal work areas. This article quotes Professor Kim Elsbach, who has researched the effects of nonterritorial offices on workers.
Let’s be honest: the term “Corporate America” doesn’t illicit warm and fuzzy feelings. Scandals like Enron and Bernie Madoff—not to mention the Wall Street crisis—have led many to lose their trust in corporations. To be more specific, there is a general distrust in the leaders who run those corporations. In the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust is now an essential line of business to be developed and delivered.
Professor Kimberly Elsbach studies how people see each other as well as their organizations as a whole. She shares the advantages of studying at a nationally ranked business school within a world-class research university. She says, “I hope that my students learn as much from each other as they do from me. I try and create an environment where we can have a discussion about a topic and really explore the underlying questions about why.”
Co-chaired by Professor Bechky and Professor Elsbach, this year’s conferences features guests from around the world to discuss key topics on qualitative research.
Qualitative Organizational Research Volume 1: Best Papers from the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research
Information Age Publishing, 2005
Over the past five years the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research has welcomed research projects by the very best qualitative, organizational researchers in the world. This conference has helped authors develop and hone theoretical ideas in an environment friendly to qualitative methods, and more importantly, has begun to build a community of qualitative researchers that work on organizational and management issues.
Edited by Professor Kimberly D. Elsbach, the authors winning the “Best Presentation Awards” at the Davis Conference over the past five years have contributed chapters to this volume. The ideas in these chapters were “born” before the conference, but were nurtured through dialogue at the conference, and subsequently matured through later interactions among the community of qualitative scholars associated with the conference. As such, this volume represents the fruits of our collective labor as a qualitative research community.
Qualitative Organizational Research Volume 2: Best Papers from the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research
Information Age Publishing, 2009
Over the past ten years, the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research has become the world’s leading conference for qualitative researchers in organizational studies. The authors of the “Best Presentation Awards” at the Davis Conference from the past four years have contributed chapters to this volume.
Edited by Professor Kimberly D. Elsbach and Associate Professor Beth Bechky, these papers cover topics ranging from organizational name changes and organizational afterlife, to the use of written letters to build relationships and the use of a “creative foil” to improve one’s leadership image, yet all of these papers are similar in that they benefited from the community of over 100 scholars developed through the Davis Conference, and represent qualitative research at its very best.
Faculty Focus • by Robert Preer
In her 15 years at Hewlett-Packard, alumna Amy Stroud ’93 had seen employee engagement plunge at the Silicon Valley–based information technology giant. A series of controversies, cutbacks and rapid CEO turnover had left staff wary of company leadership. HP had gone from the top 10 of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” to dropping off the list.
- 2010 Paper of the Year Award, Human Relations, “How passive ‘face time’ affects perceptions of employees: Evidence of spontaneous trait inference,” 2011.
- Stephen G. Newberry Chair in Leadership, UC Davis Graduate School of Management, 2010.
- International Research Fellow, Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, 2010.
- Elected Member, Macro Organizational Behavior Society, 2009.
- Two papers named to list of 17 most interesting publications in organization and management literature from the past 100 years. Academy of Management JournalEditorial Review Board, 2006.
- 2003 Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior Award, Academy of Management Organizational Behavior Division, 2004.
- 2003 Best Paper Award, Academy of Management Journal, 2004.
- Chancellor’s Fellow, UC Davis, 2001-05.
The marriage of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries has been a fountain of innovation, delivering a steady flow of revolutionary treatments for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. Today, the drug industry faces many challenges to its business model and research and development productivity, ranging from healthcare reform price pressure to increased competition from generic medicines as many branded drugs lose patent protection.
Employees who cry at work are routinely perceived as unprofessional and weak, and occasionally perceived as manipulative, according to research by Professor Kimberly Elsbach that is receiving significant national attention. Most recently, Forbes magazine featured her findings in its January 2011 article, “Crying at Work, A Woman’s Burden.” Elsbach explained that women are more likely to cry in the workplace than men: “Because women aren’t socialized like men they carry an extra burden of emotional labor.”
A globally visible expert in organizational behavior, Professor Kimberly Elsbach puts the power of collaboration to work in her research and in the classroom to broaden the scope of ideas and solutions.
“The culture of the Graduate School of Management is team oriented, and we recruit and attract students and faculty who want to be team players. In my research, I’ve done my best work when I’ve collaborated. It’s harder to see and explore all the ideas yourself. You need the insight and expertise of others.”
Do tears in workplace work more against women than men? Professor Kim Elsbach’s research says “yes.”
As gas prices rise, so does interest in telecommuting. Professor Kim Elsbach comments on best practices for building out a solid telecommuting policy.
Professor Kim Elsbach’s research is cited in a discussion of the negative perception of crying in the workplace. Elsbach said women who cried felt awful about doing so and, instead of using crying to manipulate, would have done anything to stop the flow of tears. Some women even felt the tears were damaging to their career prospects. Bosses, meanwhile, often feel uncomfortable and unsure what to do when faced with a weepy employee.
Professor Kim Elsbach says it wouldn’t be fair for insurance companies to use social media posts to make underwriting decisions if policyholders were unaware that their online comments were being used.
Professor Kim Elsbach said that in the private sector “it would be unheard-of for someone to miss 17 days when they are expected to be there.” The weak economy tends to prod more private-sector employees to show up for work even if they are sick or could telecommute, she said, because they fear losing their jobs and want to be perceived as hard workers.
“There’s been a million books written on ‘dress for success,’ but there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” said Professsor Kim Elsbach. The Graduate School of Management hosts an etiquette class for incoming students that includes what to wear to work and to business functions. “It really worries students,” Elsbach said — and women bear the brunt of that. “You’d never see (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi wearing last year’s suit. But you’d probably never even know if (Vice President) Joe Biden was wearing a suit that was 10 years out of date.”
Professor Kim Elsbach suggests that knowledge deficits among senior executives are important factors in stunted business growth. “The major problems that confront companies are the same problems that have always confronted them, and that’s leadership,” said Elsbach, who also ran a leadership consortium for executives.
Professor Kimberly Elsbach says Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Republican candidate for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat, “really did seem more interested in promoting Carly as opposed to really worrying about Hewlett Packard.”
Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” and new research suggests he may have been on to something. This new research by Professor Kimberly Elsbach suggests that your physical presence on the job can add a few percentage points to your perceived value.
Sometimes just showing up is enough, according to a recent study by University of California Davis professors. In the first-ever academic study of “passive” face time — when workers are seen in the office without any interaction — UC Davis professors Kimberly Elsbach and Jeffrey Sherman found that bosses think more favorably of employees who are present.
Working from home has many advantages. By cutting out the commute, employees can save money, boost productivity and reduce their carbon footprint. But there is one significant drawback GSM Professor Kimberly Elsbach has discovered: Telecommuting can be hazardous to your career.
Motivating and directing creative workers is a challenge for managers. Nevertheless, large corporations rely on the creative work of designers, engineers, artists and writers to maintain a competitive advantage. While these workers add economic value through their creations, their identities (solitary, independent, idealistic) can be at odds with the more pragmatic goals of a corporation.
With questions of corporate accountability, CEO responsibility, and individual morality making headline news as banks failed and financial institutions faltered on Wall Street, Professor Kimberly Elsbach presented a talk on leadership in business at the third annual Fall Ethics Symposium at California State University, Sacramento, in October. The symposium, which focused on personal and professional integrity in business, brought together scholars and practitioners with expertise in ethics from across the county to discuss the role of integrity in business decision-making.
Professor Kimberly Elsbach was among a select group of UC Davis faculty and lecturers honored at a campus authors event on April 29. Elsbach was invited to discuss her book Organizational Perception Management, which summarizes the research findings from a relatively new domain of the same name.
Work space design can make or break a company’s productivity, either inspiring innovation and collaboration or stifling employees’ ability to work smarter. Thirty years ago conventional wisdom held that to create an environment that promoted efficiency and comfort, work spaces needed to be neat and tidy with no personal items cluttering desktops.
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s show of emotion before the New Hampshire presidential primary—when her eyes welled up and her voice quivered in response to a voter’s question about how she kept going on the campaign trail—is said to have helped her at the polls. It also shed light on the issue of crying on the job, which Professor Kimberly Elsbach has been studying.
After completing a rigorous four-year process, the NCAA certified UC Davis a Division I school. Professor Kim Elsbach, who chairs the athletic administrative advisory committee and serves as UC Davis’ faculty athletic representative to the NCAA, pointed to a recent study that showed the university’s student-athletes fare better than the rest of the student population in academic performance and graduation rates.
Getting the most from employees might involve more than a motivational speech from management—think design.
In their recent article, “It’s More Than a Desk: Working Smarter Through Leveraged Office Design,” published in the winter issue of the California Management Review, Professor Kimberly Elsbach and Assistant Professor Beth Bechky lay out systematic ways managers can design office space to inspire group membership, improve collaboration and encourage group problem solving among their employees.
Featuring former Hewlett-Packard executive Nora Denzel and Professor Kim Elsbach.
This book by Professor Kimberly Elsbach summarizes the research findings from the relatively new domain of study called “organizational perception management” (OPM).
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