Lakshmi Ramarajan

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Lakshmi Ramarajan is an Assistant Professor in the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School. Her research examines the management and consequences of identities in organizations.

Lakshmi's research examines how people can work fruitfully across social divides, with a particular emphasis on identities and group boundaries.  Her research addresses two broad questions: 1) How does the work environment shape people’s experiences as members of particular groups and of their multiple identities? 2)  What are the consequences of multiple identities and group differences in organizations? She investigates professional and work identities alongside other identities that are important to people, such as ethnicity, community and family.  She examines consequences such as employee engagement and commitment to work, career success and satisfaction, quality of interpersonal and intergroup relations, and performance. In recent work, using experiments, surveys and interviews, she has examined how individuals’ manage their organizational, cultural and personal identities, and how these identities interact to influence engagement and performance.

Lakshmi earned her B.A. (Honors) in International Relations from Wellesley College, her M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and her PhD in Management from The Wharton School of Business. She was awarded the State Farm Foundation Dissertation Proposal Award in 2008. She was a Post Doctoral Fellow at Harvard Business School from 2008 to 2010. 

Prior to her academic career, Lakshmi worked in international development, managing conflict resolution programs in West Africa with a focus on gender and workforce development.  She was also a professional dancer for several years.

Journal Articles

  1. Past, Present and Future Research on Multiple Identities: Toward an Intrapersonal Network Approach

    Lakshmi Ramarajan

    Psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers have long recognized that people have multiple identities—based on attributes such as organizational membership, profession, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and family role(s) and that these multiple identities shape people's actions in organizations. The current organizational literature on multiple identities, however, is sparse and scattered and has yet to fully capture this foundational idea. I review and organize the literature on multiple identities into five different theoretical perspectives: social psychological; microsociological; psychodynamic and developmental; critical; and intersectional. I then propose a way to take research on multiple identities forward using an intrapersonal identity network approach. Moving to an identity network approach offers two advantages: first, it enables scholars to consider more than two identities simultaneously, and second, it helps scholars examine relationships among identities in greater detail. This is important because preliminary evidence suggests that multiple identities shape important outcomes in organizations, such as individual stress and well-being, intergroup conflict, performance, and change. By providing a way to investigate patterns of relationships among multiple identities, the identity network approach can help scholars deepen their understanding of the consequences of multiple identities in organizations and spark novel research questions in the organizational literature.

    Keywords: Networks; Research; Organizations; Identity;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi. "Past, Present and Future Research on Multiple Identities: Toward an Intrapersonal Network Approach." Academy of Management Annals 8, no. 1 (2014): 589–659. View Details
  2. Shattering the Myth of Separate Worlds: Negotiating Non-Work Identities at Work

    Lakshmi Ramarajan and Erin M. Reid

    How much of our self is defined by our work? Fundamental changes in the social organization of work are destabilizing the relationship between work and the self. As a result, parts of the self traditionally considered outside the domain of work, i.e., "non-work" identities, are increasingly affected by organizations and occupations. Based on an interdisciplinary review of literature on identity and work we develop a model of how people negotiate non-work identities (e.g., national, gender, family) in the context of organizational/occupational pressures and personal preferences regarding this identity. We propose that the dual forces of pressures and preferences vary from inclusion (e.g., incorporating the non-work identity within the work identity) to exclusion (e.g., keeping the identities separate). We suggest that the alignment or misalignment of these pressures and preferences shapes peoples' experience of the power relationship between themselves and their organization/occupation and affects how they manage their non-work identities. We describe how people enact different non-work identity management strategies—namely assenting to, complying with, resisting, or inverting the pressures—and delineate the consequences of these strategies for people and their organizations/occupations.

    Keywords: identity; diversity; technology; Technology; Strategy; Identity; Jobs and Positions; Diversity Characteristics;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, and Erin M. Reid. "Shattering the Myth of Separate Worlds: Negotiating Non-Work Identities at Work." Academy of Management Review 38, no. 4 (October 2013): 621–644. (Published online before print, January 15, 2013.) View Details
  3. From the Outside In: The Negative Spillover Effects of Boundary Spanners' Relations with Members of Other Organizations

    Lakshmi Ramarajan, Katerina Bezrukova, Karen A. Jehn and Martin Euwema

    Contrary to much boundary spanning research, we examined the negative consequences of boundary spanning contact in multi-organizational contexts. Results from a sample of 833 Dutch peacekeepers show that employees' boundary spanning contact with members of other organizations was associated with reports of negative relationships with external parties (e.g., work-specific problems, culture-specific problems). These negative relationships also had a spillover effect such that they mediated the effect of boundary spanning contact on boundary spanners' negative attitudes toward their own jobs and organization (e.g., job attractiveness and confidence in the organization).

    Keywords: Relationships; Jobs and Positions; Organizations; Reports; Attitudes;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, Katerina Bezrukova, Karen A. Jehn, and Martin Euwema. "From the Outside In: The Negative Spillover Effects of Boundary Spanners' Relations with Members of Other Organizations." Journal of Organizational Behavior 32, no. 6 (August 2011): 886–905. View Details
  4. Implicit Affect in Organizations

    Sigal G. Barsade, Lakshmi Ramarajan and Drew Westen

    Our goal is to integrate the construct of implicit affect—affective processes activated or processed outside of conscious awareness that influence ongoing thought, behavior, and conscious emotional experience—into the field of organizational behavior. We begin by offering a definition and review of implicit processes, including implicit cognition, motivation and affect. We then draw upon recent empirical research in psychology and neuroscience to make the case for a three category framework of implicit affect: (1) implicit sources of affect (2) implicit experiencing of affect and (3) implicit regulation of affect. To demonstrate the use of this framework in organizational scholarship, we present illustrative examples from organizational behavior research that represent each category. Given the limited amount of research in the organizational domain, we focus on demonstrating how an implicit affect perspective might alter or extend theoretical perspectives about a variety of organizational phenomena. We then discuss methodological options and challenges for studying implicit affect within the organizational domain. In sum, we provide a theoretical and methodological roadmap as well as a call for action for understanding the role of implicit affective processes in organizational behavior.

    Keywords: Framework; Business Processes; Mission and Purpose; Organizational Culture; Problems and Challenges; Research; Behavior; Cognition and Thinking; Emotions; Motivation and Incentives; Perspective;


    Barsade, Sigal G., Lakshmi Ramarajan, and Drew Westen. "Implicit Affect in Organizations." Research in Organizational Behavior 29 (2009). View Details
  5. The Relationship between Peacekeepers and NGO Workers: The Role of Training and Conflict Management Styles in International Peacekeeping.

    Lakshmi Ramarajan, Katerina Bezrukova, Karen Jehn and Martin Euwema

    Keywords: Non-Governmental Organizations; Conflict and Resolution; Management;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, Katerina Bezrukova, Karen Jehn, and Martin Euwema. "The Relationship between Peacekeepers and NGO Workers: The Role of Training and Conflict Management Styles in International Peacekeeping." International Journal of Conflict Management 15, no. 2 (2004): 167–191. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. A Positive Approach to Studying Diversity in Organizations

    Lakshmi Ramarajan and David A. Thomas

    Keywords: Research; Organizations; Diversity Characteristics;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, and David A. Thomas. "A Positive Approach to Studying Diversity in Organizations." Chap. 41 in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship, edited by Kim S. Cameron and Gretchen M. Spreitzer, 552–565. Oxford University Press, 2011. View Details
  2. Checking Your Identities at the Door? Positive Relationships Between Non-Work and Work Identities

    Nancy Rothbard and Lakshmi Ramarajan

    In this chapter we examine factors that enable individuals to experience compatibility between their work and non-work identities. Specifically, we suggest that identity compatibility is influenced by (a) the extent to which individuals can control the co-activation of identities, and (b) the routinization of identity co-activation. We argue that factors such as status and respect allow for greater control over whether and when identities are co-activated. We also argue that compatibility arises from cognitive routines which emerge from active and passive adaptation to situations in which co-activation of identities occurs frequently.

    Keywords: Personal Development and Career; Identity; Adaptation;

Working Papers

  1. An Outside-Inside Evolution in Gender and Professional Work

    Lakshmi Ramarajan, Kathleen McGinn and Deborah Kolb

    We study the process by which a professional service firm reshaped its activities and beliefs over nearly two decades as it adapted to shifts in the social discourse regarding gender and work. Analyzing archival data from the firm over eighteen years and representations of gender and work from the business press over the corresponding two decades, we find that the firm internalized the broader social discourse through iterated cycles of analysis and action, punctuated by evolving beliefs about gender and work. Outside experts and shifting social understandings played pivotal roles in changing beliefs and activities inside the firm. We conclude with an internalization model depicting organizational adaptation to evolving social institutions.

    Keywords: gender; professional service firms; social institutions; organizational learning; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Employment; Gender Characteristics; Society; Service Industry;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, Kathleen McGinn, and Deborah Kolb. "An Outside-Inside Evolution in Gender and Professional Work." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-051, November 2012. View Details
  2. Opening Up or Shutting Down? The Effects of Multiple Identities on Problem Solving

    Lakshmi Ramarajan

    Across three studies, I investigate the distinct effects of multiple identity conflict and enhancement within people on two crucial aspects of resolving problems with others: integrative behavior and openness. The results of two studies support the hypotheses that multiple identity conflict is negatively related to integrative thinking while multiple identity enhancement is positively related to attitudes of openness to others. In a third study, I conducted an interpersonal dyadic negotiation experiment with business school students and found that, as predicted, these effects replicated and extended to integrative outcomes and open behaviors. This research shows that there are both harmful and helpful effects of multiple identities on interpersonal problem solving depending on whether those identities are enhancing or conflicting: multiple identity conflict shuts down integrative thought and behavior and multiple identity enhancement opens us up to other people.

    Keywords: Interpersonal Communication; Problems and Challenges; Behavior; Conflict Management; Identity; Integration;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi. "Opening Up or Shutting Down? The Effects of Multiple Identities on Problem Solving." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-041, November 2009. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Building Effective Working Relationships

    Lakshmi Ramarajan

    This note introduces a framework for deliberately building effective interpersonal relationships. First, we will define the necessary attributes of these relationships. Next, we will discuss common barriers to effectiveness. Lastly, we will provide tools to build and maintain these relationships.

    Keywords: Interpersonal relations; interpersonal communication; power and influence; networks; Networks; Interpersonal Communication; Performance Effectiveness;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi. "Building Effective Working Relationships." Harvard Business School Module Note 415-030, September 2014. (Revised January 2015.) View Details
  2. Claude Grunitzky, Founder & CEO of TRACE Magazine, In-class Comments, February 2, 2012

    Julie Battilana, Lakshmi Ramarajan and James Weber

    Keywords: Publishing Industry;


    Battilana, Julie, Lakshmi Ramarajan, and James Weber. "Claude Grunitzky, Founder & CEO of TRACE Magazine, In-class Comments, February 2, 2012." Harvard Business School Video Supplement 412-705, March 2012. (Revised March 2015.) View Details
  3. Public Architecture

    Lakshmi Ramarajan, Christopher Marquis and Bobbi Thomason

    Public Architecture is a non-profit architecture company dedicated to creating social and professional change through design for the public good. Public has focused on three strategies to create change: 1) promoting the design community's commitment to pro bono work, 2) inspiring action through creating design with a social mission, and 3) disseminating knowledge created by socially relevant design throughout the profession. As a central actor and change agent in the profession, Public Architecture created The 1% Program, a national network of architecture and design firms that have publicly pledged to donate 1% of their billable hours to the public good. However, the organization has been struggling to keep both The 1% Program and its own design initiatives integrated and reinforcing each other in creating social and professional change. Should Public split into two organizations? Would keeping the diverse elements within Public Architecture together force the entire organization to the least common denominator or would it provide them with a flexible platform for creating social change? These questions have important implications for Public's growth strategy, their funding, and resource allocation decisions.

    Keywords: Design; Innovation and Management; Growth and Development Strategy; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Organizational Culture; Organizational Structure; Nonprofit Organizations; Business Strategy; Integration;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, Christopher Marquis, and Bobbi Thomason. "Public Architecture." Harvard Business School Case 411-030, July 2010. (Revised September 2012.) View Details

Other Publications and Materials

  1. Changes in Work, Changes in Self? Managing Our Work and Non-Work Identities in an Integrated World

    Lakshmi Ramarajan and Erin M. Reid

    Diverse workplaces are challenging the boundaries between workers' personal and professional lives, as workers today navigate employer pressures regarding who they are and who they can be outside of work. Lakshmi Ramarajan and Erin M. Reid consider how the attunement to power dynamics affects organisational effectiveness and organisational change.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Boundaries; Identity; Power and Influence;


    Ramarajan, Lakshmi, and Erin M. Reid. "Changes in Work, Changes in Self? Managing Our Work and Non-Work Identities in an Integrated World." European Business Review (September–October 2013): 61–64. View Details