Tsedal Neeley

Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow

Tsedal Neeley is an associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at the Harvard Business School. She teaches an MBA elective course called Collaborating in a Global Economy and in various executive education programs such as Global Strategic Management.

Professor Neeley's research focuses on the challenges that global collaborators face when attempting to coordinate work across national and linguistic boundaries, with special emphasis in the impact of language, power, status, and emotions on social dynamics.  In particular, she examines the effects of internationalizing firms' policies requiring employees of diverse skill-set to adopt English as their common business language, or lingua franca.  In addition to lingua franca adoption behaviors, she studies the influence of culture in heterogeneous work environments. Professor Neeley's publishes her work in leading scholarly and practitioner-oriented outlets such as Organization ScienceManagement ScienceJournal of International Business, Harvard Business Review and Organizational Dynamics.  Her research has been covered in many media outlets such as CNN, Financial Times, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist.

Before her academic career, Professor Neeley spent ten years in industry working for companies like Lucent Technologies and The Forum Corporation in various capacities including strategies for global customer experience, 360 degree performance software management systems, sales force/sales management development, and business flow analysis for telecommunication infrastructures.  With extensive international experience, Professor Neeley is fluent in four languages. 

Professor Neeley received her Ph.D. from Stanford University's Department of Management Science and Engineering specializing in organizational studies.  Professor Neeley was a Stanford University School of Engineering Lieberman award recipient for excellence in teaching and research.

  1. Global Business Speaks English

    Ready or not, English is now the global language of business. More and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language—Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Fast Retailing, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, SAP, Technicolor, and Microsoft in Beijing, to name a few—in an attempt to facilitate communication and performance across geographically diverse functions and business endeavors.

  2. Language Wars Divide Global Companies

    An increasing number of global firms adopt a primary language for business operations—usually English. The problem: The practice can surface dormant hostilities around culture and geography. Tsedal Neeley discusses her research in this story from HBS Working Knowledge.

  3. Radical Language Strategy Case

  4. Tip of the Iceberg Simulation on global collaboration

    As Professor Tsedal Neeley explains, Tip of the Iceberg simulates the communication dynamics that occur during global collaborations in which diverse work teams interact in English—the mandated business language. Through a series of online communication game sessions, student teams (students are assigned roles as native English speakers and non-native speakers) work together to solve problems against the clock, as language and communication challenges impact their performance.
  5. Firsthand experience in global collaboration

    For a manager to assume that they can conduct all of their global work without any face-to-face contact is a mistake. In this leadership insight, Professor Neeley discusses how traveling to meet colleagues in other countries not only gives you direct knowledge of what they're doing, but also a better understanding of how they perceive you.

  6. Leaders' Blindspots Undermine Their Global Language Policies

  7. The challenges of companies mandating English as the global language and the SCARF model

  8. It's Not Nagging: Why Persistent, Redundant Communication Works

    CEOs of global companies increasingly mandate that their employees learn English. The problem: these workers can experience a loss of status and believe they aren't as effective in their learned language, says Assistant Professor Tsedal Neeley