The doctoral program in Organizational Behavior trains scholars who are able to draw on the concepts and methods of psychology and sociology in conducting research on behavior and management within complex organizations. It prepares students for careers as researchers and teachers. Program graduates will be comfortable working either in disciplinary departments or in professional schools—especially schools of management.

The Organizational Behavior program is presented jointly by the faculty of Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The program combines training in the theory and methods of psychology and sociology, the study of business administration, and empirical research on organizational phenomena. Students have the choice of focusing their research at either the micro (i.e. psychological, interpersonal) or macro (i.e. sociological, organizational) level.

Organizational Behavior faculty members come from both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Business School. View a list of faculty involved.

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Curriculum & coursework

Students in the OB program specialize in micro-organizational behavior or sociology. They receive core disciplinary training in either psychology or sociology, and gain knowledge of existing research and theory about organizations through advanced coursework in organizational behavior. Students also complete the Business Education for Scholars and Teachers (BEST) Series.

Teaching & Apprenticeship

Students are required to complete a teaching assignment for one full academic term. Students also work as an apprentice to a faculty member to gain skill and experience in research.


Students undergo a dossier review, which consists of their qualifying paper, at least two other research papers, and a brief statement indicating their plans for future research and dissertation work.

The Organizational Behavior Exam completes the student's preparation for work on the doctoral dissertation. It provides an excellent occasion for the student to draw on all of his or her academic preparation and training to demonstrate readiness for first-rate conceptual and empirical work on organizational phenomena. Sociology track students also complete a written examination in Sociology.


Students must prepare a dissertation prospectus which will be reviewed by the prospectus committee typically consisting of three or four faculty members. There must be at least one member from the HBS faculty and one from the Psychology or Sociology faculty (depending on the students’ track).

The dissertation is the culminating event in the program, in which the student develops a substantial original contribution to knowledge in the field of Organizational Behavior. Dissertations may take the form of an extended study of one topic, or a set of three or more related research papers.

Examples of doctoral thesis research include: Cross-group relations, stress, and the subsequent effect on performance; Internal group dynamics of corporate boards of directors with a particular focus on the psychology of board membership, speaking up behavior, and board process in decision-making and conflict resolution; How organizations manage tensions that arise between social missions and financial objectives and on the conditions under which organizational mission diminishes versus enhances effort and commitment of members; and Psychological tendencies and collaboration with dissimilar others.

See Program Requirements for detailed curriculum information.