Leslie A. Perlow

Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership

Leslie Perlow is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership in the Organizational Behavior area at the Harvard Business School. She currently teaches Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) in the MBA program and runs a doctoral seminar on the craft of qualitative inductive research. She recently published a book, Sleeping with your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way You Work. 

Professor Perlow’s research focuses on the micro-dynamics of work. She seeks to understand what really happens at work – i.e., what do people do all day, how do they spend their time, with whom do they interact – and with what consequences for organizations and individuals. She documents individuals’ work practices and explores the implications of these practices for organization productivity, individuals’ careers and family life. Through her work, she identifies ways organizations can change their practices to the benefit of both the organization’s productivity and the individuals’ personal lives. She also engages with organizations trying to make these changes and studies the change process itself.

Professor Perlow is trained as an ethnographer, which means she spends long periods of time observing people as they go about their daily work, trying to better understand their world, from their perspectives. Her field studies range from software engineers in high tech companies to entrepreneurial ventures to management consulting teams to project teams in a pharmaceutical company.

Before joining the Harvard faculty, Professor Perlow was on the faculty of the University of Michigan Business School. She received her B.A. in Economics from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in Organization Studies from MIT. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a management consultant.

Books

  1. Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way you Work

    Does it have to be this way? Can't resist checking your smartphone or mobile device? Sure, all this connectivity keeps you in touch with your team and the office—but at what cost? In "Sleeping with Your Smartphone," Leslie Perlow reveals how you can disconnect and become more productive in the process. In fact, she shows that you can devote more time to your personal life and accomplish more at work. The good news is that this doesn't require a grand organizational makeover or buy-in from the CEO. All it takes is collaboration between you and your team—working together and making small, doable changes. What started as an experiment with a six-person team at The Boston Consulting Group—one of the world's elite management consulting firms—triggered a global initiative that eventually spanned more than 900 BCG teams in 30 countries across five continents. These teams confronted their nonstop workweeks and changed the way they worked, becoming more efficient and effective. The result? Employees were more satisfied with their work-life balance and with their work in general. And the firm was better able to recruit and retain employees. Clients also benefited—often in unexpected ways. In this engaging book, Perlow takes you inside BCG to witness the challenges and benefits of disconnecting. She provides a step-by-step guide to introducing change on your team—by establishing a collective goal, encouraging open dialogue, ensuring leadership support—and then spreading change to the rest of your firm. If you and your colleagues are grappling with the "always on" problem, it's time to disconnect—and start reading.

    Keywords: Time Management; Online Technology; Groups and Teams; Performance Productivity; Globalized Firms and Management; Service Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way you Work. Harvard Business Review Press, 2012. View Details

Journal Articles

  1. Toward a Model of Work Redesign for Better Work and Better Life

    Flexible work accommodations provided by employers purport to help individuals struggling to manage work and family demands. The underlying model for change is accommodation—helping individuals accommodate their work demands with no changes in the structure of work or cultural expectations of ideal workers. The purpose of this article is to derive a Work Redesign Model and compare it with the Accommodation Model. This article centers around two change initiatives—Predictability, Teaming and Open Communication and Results Only Work Environment—that alter the structure and culture of work in ways that enable better work and better lives.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Work-Life Balance;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Erin L. Kelly. "Toward a Model of Work Redesign for Better Work and Better Life." Work and Occupations 41, no. 1 (February 2014): 111–134. View Details
  2. Making Time Off Predictable—and Required

    People in professional services believe a 24/7 work ethic is essential for getting ahead—and so they work 60-plus hours a week and stay tethered to their BlackBerrys. This perpetuates a vicious cycle: Responsiveness breeds the need for more responsiveness. When people are always "on," responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to question whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; on the contrary, people work harder and longer, without stopping to explore how they could work better. But four years of research conducted by the authors in several North American offices of the Boston Consulting Group suggests that consultants and other professionals can provide the highest standards of service and still have planned, uninterrupted time off. They can do this even in times of recession. In this article, Perlow and Porter outline the lessons from BCG's implementation of predictable time off—namely, impose a strict mechanism for taking days and nights off, encourage lots of talk about what's working and what isn't, promote experimentation with different ways of working, and insist on top-level support.

    Keywords: Management Practices and Processes; Performance Expectations; Performance Productivity; Work-Life Balance; Service Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie, and Jessica L. Porter. "Making Time Off Predictable—and Required." Harvard Business Review 87, no. 10 (October 2009). View Details
  3. The Dynamics of Silencing Conflict

    In many organizations, when people perceive a difference with another they often do not fully express themselves. Despite creating innumerable problems, silencing conflict is a persistent phenomenon. While the antecedents of acts of silence are well documented, little is known about why norms of silencing conflict evolve. To explore this evolution, we draw on an ethnographic study that spanned the entire life of a dot.com, starting with its founding and ending with its sale to a larger company. Distilling our data using causal loop diagrams, we document the processes through which acts of silence became self-reinforcing. The dynamic model of silencing conflict induced from our data has implications not only for norm development, but also for a variety of other domains including network analysis, autonomous actor models, diversity and demography, and change management.

    Keywords: Interpersonal Communication; Management Style; Conflict Management; Societal Protocols;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie, and Nelson Repenning. "The Dynamics of Silencing Conflict." Research in Organizational Behavior 29 (2009): 195–223. View Details
  4. Contextualizing Patterns of Work Group Interaction: Toward a Nested Theory of Structuration.

    Keywords: Groups and Teams; Relationships; Theory;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie, Jody Hoffer Gittell, and Nancy R. Katz. "Contextualizing Patterns of Work Group Interaction: Toward a Nested Theory of Structuration." Organization Science 15, no. 5 (September–October 2004): 520–536. View Details
  5. Who's Helping Whom: A Comparison of Helping Behavior among American and Indian Software Engineers

    Keywords: Software; Engineering; Behavior; United States; India;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie, and John Weeks. "Who's Helping Whom: A Comparison of Helping Behavior among American and Indian Software Engineers." Journal of Organizational Behavior 23, no. 4 (June 2002): 345–361. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. Collaborative Implementation: 'What If,' Asked George?

    Keywords: Social and Collaborative Networks; Cooperation;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie. "Collaborative Implementation: 'What If,' Asked George?" In Research Alive: Exploring Generative Moments in Doing Qualitative Research. Vol. 27, edited by Arne Carlsen and Jane E. Dutton. Advances in Organization Studies. Copenhagen Business School Press, 2011. View Details
  2. Learning from Women Who Make It Work: A Call for Dynamic Flexibility

    Keywords: Gender Characteristics;

    Citation:

    Trefalt, Spela, and Leslie Perlow. "Learning from Women Who Make It Work: A Call for Dynamic Flexibility." In Qualitative Organizational Research: Best Papers from the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research, edited by K. Elsbach, 227–251. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing (IAP), 2005. View Details
  3. The Senseless Submergence of Difference: Engineers, Their Work and Their Careers

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career; Working Conditions; Engineering;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie, and L. Bailyn. "The Senseless Submergence of Difference: Engineers, Their Work and Their Careers." In Between Technology and Society: Technical Workers in Modern Workplaces, edited by B. Barley and J. Orr. Ithaca, NY: IRL Press, 1997. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (C)

    George Martin, managing partner at The Boston Consulting Group, is worried as some of his best performers have recently pulled him aside to discuss the challenges they face managing the demands of their work lives with their desire for more predictable time with their families. BCG had instituted multiple initiatives to help its consulting staff better achieve work-life balance, yet some of Martin's top consultants still struggled. The case considers the challenges professional service firm employees face in terms of work-life issues.

    Keywords: Work-Life Balance; Problems and Challenges; Employees;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Kerry Herman. "George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (C)." Harvard Business School Supplement 410-118, April 2010. (Revised May 2010.) View Details
  2. George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (A)

    George Martin, managing partner at The Boston Consulting Group, is worried as some of his best performers have recently pulled him aside to discuss the challenges they face managing the demands of their work lives with their desire for more predictable time with their families. BCG had instituted multiple initiatives to help its consulting staff better achieve work-life balance, yet some of Martin's top consultants still struggled. The case considers the challenges professional service firm employees face in terms of work-life issues.

    Keywords: Problems and Challenges; Work-Life Balance; Management Teams; Interpersonal Communication; Jobs and Positions; Employees; Consulting Industry; Boston;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Kerry Herman. "George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (A)." Harvard Business School Case 410-112, April 2010. View Details
  3. George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (B)

    George Martin, managing partner at The Boston Consulting Group, is worried as some of his best performers have recently pulled him aside to discuss the challenges they face managing the demands of their work lives with their desire for more predictable time with their families. BCG had instituted multiple initiatives to help its consulting staff better achieve work-life balance, yet some of Martin's top consultants still struggled. The case considers the challenges professional service firm employees face in terms of work-life issues.

    Keywords: Employees; Work-Life Balance; Problems and Challenges; Consulting Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Kerry Herman. "George Martin at The Boston Consulting Group (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 410-117, April 2010. View Details
  4. Coach K: A Matter of the Heart

    Successful college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski faces the decision whether to accept a lucrative offer to coach a professional basketball team or continue to coach at Duke University. Provides a context for discussing various styles of power, influence, and persuasion in the context of his coaching career.

    Keywords: Power and Influence; Strategic Planning; Decisions; Personal Development and Career; Interpersonal Communication; Management Teams; Goals and Objectives; Decision Choices and Conditions; Sports Industry; North Carolina;

    Citation:

    Snook, Scott A., Leslie A. Perlow, and Brian DeLacey. "Coach K: A Matter of the Heart." Harvard Business School Case 406-044, August 2005. (Revised December 2005.) View Details
  5. Coach Knight: The Will to Win

    Successful college basketball coach Bob Knight was fired from his long-time role as basketball coach at Indiana University and hired in the same role at Texas Tech. Considers these events in the context of his long career and provides a context for discussing various styles of power, influence, and persuasion in his leadership role as coach and educator.

    Keywords: Resignation and Termination; Selection and Staffing; Leadership Style; Situation or Environment; Power and Influence; Sports; Indiana; Texas;

    Citation:

    Snook, Scott A., Leslie A. Perlow, and Brian DeLacey. "Coach Knight: The Will to Win." Harvard Business School Case 406-043, August 2005. (Revised December 2005.) View Details
  6. Pat Anderson

    Patten Bank's pending sale jeopardizes Pat Anderson's prospect of receiving an expected year-end bonus. What to do now? This problem follows several earlier conflicts that Anderson has confronted during the past four-and-one-half years spent working as an analyst and later as an associate for the bank. Teaching Purpose: To look at power in confronting conflict.

    Keywords: Change Management; Organizational Culture; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Conflict Management; Power and Influence; Executive Compensation; Banking Industry; Financial Services Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Daisy Wademan. "Pat Anderson." Harvard Business School Case 405-033, September 2004. (Revised October 2004.) View Details
  7. Cat is out of the Bag, The: KANA and the Layoff Gone Awry (A)

    Vicki Amon-Higa, vice president of KANA, a publicly traded, midsize development company, was working with Bryan Kettle, KANA's CFO, to plan a layoff in which KANA would reduce the size of its workforce by nearly 40%. Despite the best of intentions, news of the layoff leaked before the planned announcement. The situation quickly deteriorated as a series of irate managers called Amon-Higa, demanding to know why they weren't aware of the layoff and asking her how to handle the situation. She must quickly assess the situation, figure out what went wrong, and decide how to manage each of the company's stakeholders, including Chuck Bay, KANA's CEO.

    Keywords: Crisis Management; Employees; Job Cuts and Outsourcing; Problems and Challenges; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Conflict Management;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and David Ager. "Cat is out of the Bag, The: KANA and the Layoff Gone Awry (A)." Harvard Business School Case 403-117, January 2003. (Revised April 2004.) View Details
  8. Time Distribution and Interaction Patterns for PEARL Project Team: Work Patterns at Ditto (D)

    Provides data to enable students to analyze how software engineers spend their time. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

    Keywords: Product Development; Time Management; Work-Life Balance; Information Technology Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Time Distribution and Interaction Patterns for PEARL Project Team: Work Patterns at Ditto (D)." Harvard Business School Compilation 404-058, September 2003. (Revised March 2004.) View Details
  9. PEARL Project, The: Work Patterns at Ditto (A)

    Describes life on a product development team, the behaviors that are rewarded, and the difficult tradeoffs members often have to make as a result. This is a rewritten version of an earlier case.

    Keywords: Product Development; Time Management; Groups and Teams; Work-Life Balance; Motivation and Incentives; Information Technology Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "PEARL Project, The: Work Patterns at Ditto (A)." Harvard Business School Compilation 404-055, September 2003. (Revised March 2004.) View Details
  10. Laura Barr: Work Patterns at Ditto (B)

    According to her managers, Laura is an "ideal female employee." Depicts her life and provides a log of how she spends her time. This is a rewritten version of an earlier case.

    Keywords: Time Management; Work-Life Balance; Gender Characteristics; Information Technology Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Laura Barr: Work Patterns at Ditto (B)." Harvard Business School Compilation 404-056, September 2003. (Revised March 2004.) View Details
  11. Max Green: Work Patterns at Ditto (C)

    According to his managers, Max, a software engineer on a product development team, is an organizational superstar. Describes his life and provides a log of how Max spends his time. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

    Keywords: Product Development; Time Management; Groups and Teams; Work-Life Balance; Information Technology Industry;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Max Green: Work Patterns at Ditto (C)." Harvard Business School Compilation 404-057, September 2003. (Revised March 2004.) View Details
  12. New HP, The: The Clean Room and Beyond

    When the $19 billion merger of Silicon Valley legend Hewlett-Packard and Houston-based PC giant Compaq Computer Corp. legally closed on May 3, 2002, both companies had already devoted an immense amount of time preparing for the challenges that lay ahead. Chief among these challenges was avoiding the culture clashes that often accompany large mergers. This issue was particularly relevant given the very different cultures of HP and Compaq. This case provides an inside view of the integration planning process undertaken to create "The New HP," highlighting the work of the integration office, known as "the cleanroom," and the human resources team of HP vicepresident Jackie Kane. Also describes the dilemma facing one division manager, Rich Marcello, who struggled with the implications of a clean room decision.

    Keywords: Horizontal Integration; Management Teams; Management Style; Problems and Challenges; Employees; Organizational Culture; Computer Industry; San Francisco;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Elizabeth Kind. "New HP, The: The Clean Room and Beyond." Harvard Business School Case 404-064, February 2004. View Details
  13. Work Patterns at Ditto (TN) (A), (B), (C), and (D)

    Teaching Note to (9-404-055), (9-404-056), (9-404-057), and (9-404-058).

    Keywords: Product Development; Behavior; Decision Choices and Conditions;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Work Patterns at Ditto (TN) (A), (B), (C), and (D)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 404-059, September 2003. (Revised October 2003.) View Details
  14. Anne F. Baird

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Anne F. Baird." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-086, November 2002. (Revised October 2003.) View Details
  15. Versity.com

    Versity.com has grown from four college students working out of a dorm to a $125 million venture capital-backed company. The young founders and new professional managers struggle to create a company vision and grapple with the question of whether to acquire another company. Provides an overview of the company's evolution, followed by a behind-the-scenes look at what the young founder, Howie Cohen, and also the new professional CEO, Peter Jacobs, are thinking about the company's direction and each other.

    Keywords: Business Startups; Growth and Development; Organizational Design; Mission and Purpose; Strategic Planning; Conflict and Resolution; Mergers and Acquisitions; Management Teams; Core Relationships;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Versity.com." Harvard Business School Case 403-132, February 2003. (Revised October 2003.) View Details
  16. Peter Jacobs at Versity.com

    Peter Jacobs is Versity.com's new professional CEO. This case provides a behind-the-scenes look at his thoughts and feelings about the company's evolution as he takes charge and tries to establish a new direction for the company.

    Keywords: Perspective; Growth and Development Strategy; Planning; Leadership; Management Teams;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Peter Jacobs at Versity.com." Harvard Business School Case 403-133, February 2003. (Revised October 2003.) View Details
  17. Cat is out of the Bag, The: Kana and the Layoff Gone Awry (TN) (A), (B), and (C)

    Teaching Note for (9-403-117), (9-403-118), and (9-403-119).

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and David Ager. "Cat is out of the Bag, The: Kana and the Layoff Gone Awry (TN) (A), (B), and (C)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 404-060, September 2003. (Revised October 2003.) View Details
  18. Managing the Competing Goals of Work and Life

    Outlines how instructors can facilitate discussion within the Managing the Competing Goals of Work and Life module to encourage students to begin a process of self-assessment that focuses on personal values, career development needs, and workplace culture.

    Keywords: Working Conditions; Goals and Objectives; Organizational Culture; Work-Life Balance; Value;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Managing the Competing Goals of Work and Life." Harvard Business School Module Note 404-063, September 2003. View Details
  19. Howie Cohen at Versity.com

    Howie Cohen is Versity.com's founder. This case provides a behind-the-scenes look at his thoughts and feelings about his company's evolution as they expand across the country and bring in a professional management team.

    Keywords: Leadership;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A. "Howie Cohen at Versity.com." Harvard Business School Case 403-134, February 2003. (Revised September 2003.) View Details
  20. Linda Fay Harris

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Linda Fay Harris." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-081, November 2002. View Details
  21. Samuel Allston

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Samuel Allston." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-082, November 2002. View Details
  22. Patricia Hughes Mason

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Patricia Hughes Mason." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-083, November 2002. View Details
  23. Matthew J. Martin

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Matthew J. Martin." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-084, November 2002. View Details
  24. Richard Oliva

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Richard Oliva." Harvard Business School Supplement 403-085, November 2002. View Details
  25. Profiles of the Class of 1976

    Presents profiles written by six members of the HBS Class of 1976 from the 10th and 20th reunions. The six alumni represent a cross section of the class of 1976 and provide a snapshot of life at the time of the reunions.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Perlow, Leslie A., and Thomas J. DeLong. "Profiles of the Class of 1976." Harvard Business School Case 403-087, November 2002. View Details