Sandra J. Sucher
MBA Class of 1966 Professor of Management Practice, Joseph L. Rice, III Faculty Fellow
SANDRA J. SUCHER is Professor of Management Practice, Joseph L. Rice, III Faculty Fellow at Harvard Business School. Sucher joined the faculty of Harvard Business School after 25 years in industry and nonprofit management and is a member of the General Management Unit. Sucher’s executive experiences have shaped her interests, teaching, and research, which have centered on the ethically ‘gray’ areas of business, moral leadership, managing differences, and most recently, layoffs and their alternatives. For ten years, she taught (and for five years, led) the required MBA course, “Leadership and Corporate Accountability.” For twelve years she has taught "The Moral Leader" – an elective in the MBA curriculum that examines leadership and moral decision making through literature and historical accounts. Sucher is the author of two books on “The Moral Leader” course: The Moral Leader: Challenges, Insights and Tools, (Routledge 2008) and Teaching The Moral Leader: A Literature-based Leadership Course, A Guide For Instructors (Routledge 2007). From 1986 until 1998, Sucher worked at Fidelity Investments. As Vice President of Corporate Quality, she focused the firm's division-level quality groups on customer loyalty research. As Vice President of Retail Service Quality, she set service strategy for the retail business and improved service and operations processes, including the processes of opening new accounts, solving customer problems, and transferring assets among financial firms. Prior to Fidelity, Sucher spent 10 years in fashion retailing at Filene's, a Boston-based department store chain. She wrote the proposal, approved by Federated Department Stores, to expand Filene's Basement from a single store to a national chain. In her last assignment, as Vice President of Customer Service, she improved customer service for Filene's then 14-unit regional business. Sucher has served on two corporate boards and as Chair of the Better Business Bureau of Boston. Sucher received her MBA from Harvard Business School with first- and second-year honors; she also earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA from the University of Michigan, High Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa.
The Human Costs of Layoffs: Workforce Reductions and their Alternatives
This research project examines a profoundly difficult and practical question facing managers: How to manage workforce reductions—critical to responding to economic cycles and strategic shifts—while making good on responsibilities to employees, companies, shareholders, and communities around the world?
The primary objective of this research is to develop a framework – and book – to help senior business leaders make better decisions about when to make workforce reduction decisions (and when to avoid reducing the workforce to pursue alternative approaches), how to implement the reductions in more efficient and humane ways, and how to mitigate potential harm to departing workers, to the company and its surviving employees, and to local communities.
The project has already produced output including: 1) five technical notes for students, including notes on the effects of layoffs on key stakeholders, best practices in conducting layoffs, and on the legal requirements of managing layoffs in selected countries, 2) video interviews with laid off employees to demonstrate the impacts these decisions have on the lives of individual people—currently 10 video interviews with laid off employees from the U.S., France, and India.
We are now engaged in research on the costs and benefits and implementation challenges of different types of workforce reduction policies. We have completed a case on Honeywell's use of employee furloughs (unpaid leaves) as an alternative to layoffs during the Great Recession. We are also finalizing a case on Nokia's multi-faceted company program to manage the lay off of nearly 20,000 employees, including the use of employee innovation grants for approved business plans for departing employees. Future research will include an examination of ‘no layoff’ policies, the labor management policies of German companies during periods of economic uncertainty, and the planning and management of long-horizon facility/site closings, an essential feature of workforce reductions in extractive and natural resource industries.
In 2007 and 2008, Professor Sucher published an instructor manual and student textbook based on 'The Moral Leader,' a literature-based course on leadership that has been taught at Harvard Business School for more than 20 years. The course focuses on core ethical questions that managers wrestle with: What is the nature of a moral challenge? How do people “reason morally?” What do these look like when they are undertaken by leaders – individuals who must make decisions under conditions of responsibility for others?
The Management of Differences
Professor Sucher has developed cases and other teaching materials that aim to provide thought-provoking, real-world examples of the ways in which social identity differences emerge and are managed in the workplace. These materials include "Differences at Work," 11 mini-cases based on HBS students' own experiences of social identity challenges in the workplace (developed with Robin Cherry Glass (MBA/MPA 2007) and Professor Robin Ely), conceptual notes on the individual experience and leadership challenges of managing differences, and, most recently, "Global Diversity and Inclusion at Royal Dutch Shell," a case that examines the challenges of managing differences in 100 countries around the world.