Paul Isaac Green - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Paul Isaac Green

Doctoral Student

Paul is a Doctoral Candidate in the Management DBA program.  His research work explores the ways in which relational experiences lead to, or inhibit, important outcomes such as engagement, motivation and performance.  He is deeply interested in the role relationships play in enabling, or restraining, employee growth.  His work illuminates a critical paradox: deep interpersonal relationships at work may increase employees’ motivation to improve, and their receptiveness to difficult-to-hear feedback, but can decrease the likelihood that relational partners provide the developmental insight or feedback that is so critical to enabling growth. 

Paul's exploration is primarily field-based and quantitative in nature.  He uses field experiments, quantitative analyses of archival data, and social network analysis to answer his research questions.  He has conducted research across various industries--including food processing; fruit harvesting; auto manufacturing; fast food; and professional services.  

Paul was formerly with The Morning Star Company, a California based integrated food processing company, where he co-founded the Morning Star Self-Management Institute.  He was principally responsible for advancing Morning Star through their unique and innovative organizational system.  Morning Star, which has been called, "the world's most creatively managed company" and was named one of Inc. Magazine's most audacious companies because of their organizational system, is widely considered one of the world's leading organizational innovators.  Paul's leadership in advancing their philosophy and systems, combined with his drive to better understand human nature and motivation through research and experimentation, were instrumental in enabling Morning Star's organizational system to scale as Morning Star experienced significant growth.

Paul has spoken to audiences in the U.S. and around the World, and won the 2012 Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for his work advancing Self-Management.

Paul currently lives in the Boston area with his wife and their five children.
Journal Articles
  1. The Energizing Nature of Work Engagement: Toward a New Need-Based Theory of Work Motivation

    Paul Green, Eli Finkel, Grainne Fitzsimons and Francesca Gino

    We present theory suggesting that experiences at work that meet employees’ expectations of need fulfillment drive work engagement. Employees have needs (e.g., a desire to be authentic) and they also have expectations for how their job or their organization will fulfill them. We argue that experiences at work that confirm employees’ need fulfillment expectations yield a positive emotional state that is energizing, and that this energy is manifested in employees’ behaviors at work. Our theorizing draws on a review of the work engagement literature, in which we identify three core characteristics of work engagement: (a) a positive emotional state that (b) yields a feeling of energy and (c) leads to positive work-oriented behaviors. These key themes provide the foundation for further theorizing suggesting that interactions at work confirm or disconfirm employees’ need fulfillment expectations, leading to different levels of engagement. We extend our theorizing to argue that confirmation, or disconfirmation, of different need expectations will yield emotional experience of varying magnitudes, with confirmation of approach-oriented need expectations exerting stronger effects than the confirmation of avoidance-oriented need expectations. We close with a review suggesting that organizational contextual features influence the expression of these needs, sustaining or undermining the positive emotional experiences that fuel work engagement.

    Keywords: needs; motivation; work engagement; disengagement; Authenticity; Self-Expression; Employees; Motivation and Incentives; Behavior; Human Needs;


    Green, Paul, Eli Finkel, Grainne Fitzsimons, and Francesca Gino. "The Energizing Nature of Work Engagement: Toward a New Need-Based Theory of Work Motivation." Research in Organizational Behavior 37 (2017): 1–18.  View Details
Working Papers
  1. Shopping for Confirmation: How Disconfirming Feedback Shapes Social Networks

    Paul Green Jr., Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats

    Many organizations employ interpersonal feedback processes as a structured means of informing and motivating employee improvement. Ample evidence suggests that these feedback processes are largely ineffective, and despite a wealth of prescriptive literature, these processes often fail to lead to employee motivation or improvement. We propose that these feedback processes are often ineffective because they represent threats to recipients’ positive self-concept. Because the self-concept is socially sustained, recipients will flee these threats or otherwise reshape their network to attenuate the negative psychological effects of the threat. Analyzing four years of peer feedback and social network data from an agribusiness company in the western U.S., we find that employees, in the face of feedback that is more negative than their own self-assessment in a given domain (i.e., disconfirming feedback), reshape their network in ways designed to attenuate the threat brought about by the feedback, and that this behavior is detrimental to their performance. In a laboratory study, we replicate these findings conceptually, showing that disconfirming feedback has such effects on one’s relationships and performance because it is perceived as threatening to one’s self-concept.

    Keywords: developmental feedback; self-concept; positive illusions; social network; Threat; Identity; Social and Collaborative Networks; Behavior; Performance;


    Green, Paul, Jr., Francesca Gino, and Bradley Staats. "Shopping for Confirmation: How Disconfirming Feedback Shapes Social Networks." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-028, September 2017.  View Details
  2. Seeking to Belong: How the Words of Internal and External Beneficiaries Influence Performance

    Paul Green, Francesca Gino and Bradley R. Staats

    In this paper, we examine how connecting to beneficiaries of one’s work increases performance and argue that beneficiaries internal to an organization (i.e., one’s own colleagues) can serve as an important source of motivation, even in jobs that—on the surface—may seem routine and low on potential impact. We suggest that this occurs because words of beneficiaries strengthen one’s sense of belongingness, a key driver of human behavior. Employees, in fact, seek to belong—and seek to enhance their sense of belongingness in work settings. We conducted two studies using both field and laboratory data from different populations to investigate the psychological consequences and performance benefits of connecting to beneficiaries of one’s work. In a longitudinal field experiment of fruit harvesters, we find that though beneficiary contact with the overall customer did not significantly improve productivity, contact with an internal beneficiary that made connectedness salient yielded a persistent increase in productivity relative to a control group. We validate this effect in the laboratory and provide evidence that the effect is mediated by an enhanced sense of belongingness.

    Keywords: prosocial motivation; belongingness; motivation; job design; field experiment; Motivation and Incentives; Strategy; Job Design and Levels;


    Green, Paul, Francesca Gino, and Bradley R. Staats. "Seeking to Belong: How the Words of Internal and External Beneficiaries Influence Performance." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-073, February 2017.  View Details
  3. The Microstructure of Work: How Unexpected Breaks Let You Rest, but Not Lose Focus

    Pradeep Pendem, Paul Green, Bradley R. Staats and Francesca Gino

    How best to structure the work day is an important operational question for organizations. A key structural consideration is the effective use of breaks from work. Breaks serve the critical purpose of allowing employees to recharge, but in the short term, translate to a loss of time that usually leads to reduced productivity. We evaluate the effects of two types of breaks (expected versus unexpected), and two distinct forms of unexpected breaks, and find that unexpected breaks can, under certain conditions, yield immediate post-break performance increases. We test our hypotheses using productivity data from 212 fruit harvesters collected over one harvesting season yielding nearly 250,000 truckloads of fruit harvested over the course of 9,832 shifts. We provide a conceptual laboratory replication of these findings, showing that unexpected breaks lead to increased performance when they allow people to maintain attention on the focal task. Our results suggest that the characteristics of a break can lead the break to be experienced as an interruption, with all consequent negative outcomes, or as a rejuvenating experience, with positive post-break consequences.

    Keywords: Breaks; productivity; Attention; Workload; Harvesting; Working Conditions; Behavior; Performance Productivity; Organizations;


    Pendem, Pradeep, Paul Green, Bradley R. Staats, and Francesca Gino. "The Microstructure of Work: How Unexpected Breaks Let You Rest, but Not Lose Focus." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-058, December 2016.  View Details
Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. Webasto Roof Systems Americas: Leadership Through Change (A)

    Francesca Gino and Paul Green Jr.

    Webasto Roof Systems, Americas, the North American subsidiary of Germany-based Webasto Group, limped into 2014 in poor financial and operational shape. The company's early optimism emerging from the financial downturn had proven naive, and now, five years later, the company was consistently losing money and was battling severe operational challenges affecting quality and threatening customer relationships. Furthermore, senior leadership had completely turned over three times in the five-year period. Now, the new—and young—leadership is attempting to navigate that crisis and repair the organization, which was full of skittish and disengaged employees. Philipp Schramm, the new CFO, must figure out how to enact positive change with a team of unenthusiastic employees and a near-toxic culture.

    Keywords: change management; leading change; crisis management; culture change; auto industry; Change Management; Leading Change; Crisis Management; Organizational Culture; Manufacturing Industry; Auto Industry; North and Central America;


    Gino, Francesca, and Paul Green Jr. "Webasto Roof Systems Americas: Leadership Through Change (A)." Harvard Business School Case 917-015, May 2017.  View Details
  2. Scaling Well by Doing Good: Motivating Talent at b.good

    Francesca Gino, Paul Green Jr. and Bradley Staats

    Boston-based fast-casual chain b.good was founded on the idea of healthy food, sourced locally, and prepared in-store. The founders had built a value-based business and worked hard to cultivate a sense of family—among employees, customers, and suppliers. In 2015, they had entered a period of substantial growth, with the company doubling in size over the past 12 months, and planned to double again over the coming 12 months. The management felt this purpose and sense of family had served them well, but were worried that growth would water down these key ingredients to their success. As they enter 2016, they are particularly focused on ensuring that they get the "people" systems right.

    Keywords: motivation; values; corporate culture; growth strategy; Motivation and Incentives; Values and Beliefs; Growth Management; Organizational Culture; Growth and Development Strategy; Service Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; New England;


    Gino, Francesca, Paul Green Jr., and Bradley Staats. "Scaling Well by Doing Good: Motivating Talent at b.good." Harvard Business School Case 916-031, February 2016.  View Details