Doctoral Student

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 and inequality of workers, in the context of organizations and occupational groups.

Please also see my personal website and CV.

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).

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 and inequality of workers, in the context of organizations and occupational groups.

Please also see my personal website and CV.

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).

I was awarded the 2014 Best Student Paper Award from the Organization and Management Theory (OMT) Division of the Academy of Management (AOM). My research is forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly.

Before joining the doctoral program in 2011, I worked in the management consulting industry. Earlier on, I graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2008 with an A.B. in social anthropology and a secondary field in psychology, and I was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society since his junior year. In college, I conducted ethnographic research on the cultural values of street dancers in New England and Miami, and the undergraduate thesis I wrote on this topic under the advising of Professor of Anthropology Michael Herzfeld was awarded a Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for outstanding thesis research. 

Journal Articles

  1. Three Lenses on Professions and Occupations in Organizations: Becoming, Doing, and Relating

    Michel Anteby, Curtis K. Chan and Julia DiBenigno

    Management and organizational scholarship is overdue for a reappraisal of occupations and professions as well as a critical review of past and current work on the topic. Indeed, the field has largely failed to keep pace with the rising salience of occupational and professional—as opposed to organizational—dynamics in work life. Moreover, not only is there a dearth of studies that explicitly take occupational or professional categories into account, but there is also an absence of a shared analytical framework for understanding what occupations and professions entail. Our goal is therefore two-fold: first, to offer guidance to scholars less familiar with this terrain who encounter occupational or professional dynamics in their own inquiries and, second, to introduce a three-part framework for conceptualizing occupations and professions to help guide future inquiries. We suggest that occupations and professions can be understood through lenses of “becoming,” “doing,” and “relating.” We develop this framework as we review past literature and discuss the implications of each approach for future research and, more broadly, for the field of management and organizational theory.

    Keywords: Professions; professional identity; occupations; work; workplace; work culture; literature review; Organizational Culture; Personal Development and Career;

    Citation:

    Anteby, Michel, Curtis K. Chan, and Julia DiBenigno. "Three Lenses on Professions and Occupations in Organizations: Becoming, Doing, and Relating." Academy of Management Annals (forthcoming). View Details
  2. Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-Job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration

    Curtis K. Chan and Michel Anteby

    What could explain inequality within a given job between groups of workers, particularly between women and men? Extant workplace inequality scholarship has largely overlooked as a source for inequality the job’s work content—the actual tasks workers perform. It is possible, however, for a job to have considerably heterogeneous tasks and for particular tasks to be differentially allocated by worker group. We deem this possibility “task segregation”—when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated to spend more time doing particular tasks within a job. If these tasks are relatively undesirable, then the segregated group may have relatively poorer job quality. Drawing on interviews with airport security screeners, we analyze a case of task segregation and the processes through which it generated inequality in job quality. Relative to male screeners, female screeners were more often allocated the reportedly undesirable task of passenger pat-downs, disproportionately exposing them to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain. Task segregation also disproportionately exposed female screeners to processes of managerial sanction and skillset narrowing that further contributed to poor job quality for women. Overall, we build theory around how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.

    Keywords: inequality; work; mechanisms and processes; gender; stratification; labor process; qualitative methods (general); case method; field research; Equality and Inequality; Working Conditions; Gender; Labor; Labor and Management Relations; Air Transportation Industry;

    Citation:

    Chan, Curtis K., and Michel Anteby. "Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-Job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration." Administrative Science Quarterly (forthcoming). View Details