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 the social and cultural processes around meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups. 

Currently, I have research in two streams of work. My first stream considers processes of inequality. In an article forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, I and co-author Michel Anteby draw upon an inductive, qualitative case study of female and male screening workers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to theorize a mechanism of 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.

My second stream of research considers cultural 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 plays in this meaning-making.

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.

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 the social and cultural processes around meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups. 

Currently, I have research in two streams of work. My first stream considers processes of inequality. In an article forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, I and co-author Michel Anteby draw upon an inductive, qualitative case study of female and male screening workers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to theorize a mechanism of 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.

My second stream of research considers cultural 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 plays in this meaning-making.

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. 

  1. Overview

    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 the social and cultural processes around meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups. Currently, I have research in two streams of work. My first stream considers processes of inequality. In an article forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly, I and co-author Michel Anteby draw upon an inductive, qualitative case study of female and male screening workers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to theorize a mechanism of 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. My second stream of research considers cultural 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 plays in this meaning-making.

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

  2. Transportation Security Officers’ Work, Motivations, and Practices Study

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    Because of its unique history, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a strategic setting to explore employees' possible distinct and evolving relation to their work.  Since its inception in the wake of 9/11, the TSA has hired thousands of individuals, many of which have joined at the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) level. These TSOs comes from a variety of backgrounds. The goal of this study is to better understand the TSOs relation to their work, particularly variations in such relations.
  3. The Meaning-Making of Meaningful Work

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    This stream of research considers cultural processes of meaning-making. In an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, I examine what makes certain kinds of work meaningful and what role the interpretation of organizational communications plays in this meaning-making.