Research Summary


by Curtis Kwinyen Chan


I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Organizational Behavior program jointly offered by Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. My research interests focus on processes of meaning-making, job quality, and inequality of workers, in the context of organizations and occupational groups. Currently, I have research in three streams of work. My first stream considers processes of meaning-making. As part of my dissertation research, I am conducting an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, examining how workers view certain kinds of work as meaningful, and what role the interpretation of organizational communications, language, and culture plays in this meaning-making. My second stream of research considers mechanisms of inequality, illustrated by my first-authored article (with Michel Anteby) forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, called "Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration". In this article, we examine a case of task segregation—when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job inequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers at a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. My third stream of research considers the role of occupations and professions in organizational life, illustrated by a co-authored review piece (with Michel Anteby and Julia DiBenigno) accepted at the Academy of Management Annals entitled, “Three Lenses on Professions and Occupations in Organizations: Becoming, Doing, and Relating". In this article, we review the occupational and professional literature to introduce a three-part framework for conceptualizing occupations and professions. We suggest that occupations and professions can be understood through the lenses of “becoming” (highlighting the ways in which occupational members are socialized into the cultural values, norms, and worldviews of their occupational community), “doing” (emphasizing the ways in which occupational members perform occupational tasks or practices and enact claims about their scope of expertise), and “relating” (illuminating the ways in which occupational members build collaborative relations with others, including intra-, inter-, and extra-occupational relations).

Keywords: qualitative research; ethnography; corporate culture; organizational behavior; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Theory; Working Conditions; Consulting Industry;