Jeffrey Lees - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
Photo of Jeffrey Lees

Jeffrey Lees

Doctoral Student

Jeffrey Lees is a third year Ph.D. Candidate in Organizational Behavior and Psychology at Harvard Business School. His research cuts across the topics of moral behavior in organizations and fostering inclusion in the workplace. He utilizes experimental approaches to collecting field and laboratory data in order to illuminate the many processes which drive unethical behavior and intergroup conflict within organizations. 

A central topic of Jeff’s research concerns inaccurate beliefs people have regarding how they and their organization are perceived, and how these inaccuracies lead to negative behaviors. One such study highlights how leaders’ overly positive beliefs about their organization’s reputation can lead them to engage in behaviors which engender moral backlash. Another study examines a similar dynamic in politics, where members of both political parties inaccurately believe those “across the aisle” strongly dislike them and are not willing to compromise on policy issues.

Jeff’s research on inclusivity in organizations highlights how feelings of inclusion are constituted by multiple psychological processes, and that these processes can be differentially activated by contextual factors within organizations. This work focuses on how inclusive leaders need to be conscious of how these contextual factors can strengthen (or attenuate) feelings of inclusion.   

Jeff also studies how the cognitive process of anthropomorphization drives moral judgments of organizations’ behavior, and how anthropic perceptions of organizations can predict robbery rates of convenient stores. 

Jeff’s teaching at Harvard focuses on helping students become better consumers of data in organizations. As a Teaching Fellow for People Analytics at HBS he has helped MBA students better understand how to perform and interpret a variety of statistical techniques, and how to leverage organizational data for strategic advantage. Additionally, as a Teaching Fellow in the Core Curriculum for Harvard undergraduates, he has assisted students in tackling issues of the “post-truth” age, including how they can be better consumers of news and online information, and the role cognitive biases play in hampering our ability to act as informed citizen of a flourishing democracy.

Prior to attending Harvard Jeff worked for three years as the Lab Manager of Columbia Business School's Behavioral Research Laboratory. He earned his M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago and his B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Maine at Farmington.

Journal Articles
  1. Is the Moral Domain Unique?: A Social Influence Perspective for the Study of Moral Cognition

    J. Lees and F. Gino

    The nature of the cognitive processes that give rise to moral judgment and behavior has been a central question of psychology for decades. In this paper, we suggest that an often ignored yet fruitful stream of research for informing current debates on the nature of moral cognition is social influence. We introduce what we call the “social-moderation-of-process” perspective, a methodological framework for leveraging insights from social influence research to inform debates in moral psychology over the mechanisms underlying moral cognition, and the moral domains in which those mechanisms operate. We demonstrate the utility of the social-moderation-of-process perspective by providing a detailed example of how research on social influence in behavioral ethics can be utilized to test a research question related to a debate between two prominent theories in moral psychology. We then detail how researchers across the field of moral psychology can utilize our social-moderation-of-process perspective.

    Keywords: Cognition and Thinking; Moral Sensibility; Behavior; Social Psychology;


    Lees, J., and F. Gino. "Is the Moral Domain Unique? A Social Influence Perspective for the Study of Moral Cognition." Social and Personality Psychology Compass 11, no. 8 (August 2017).  View Details
  1. To Highlight or Downplay Differences? A Threat-Matching Model for Crafting Diversity Approaches

    J. Lees and Evan Apfelbaum

    We integrate organizational and psychological scholarship to devise the threat matching model, a contingency theory that illustrates when, how, and which diversity approaches—frameworks leaders provide employees to understand and respond to diversity—promote inclusiveness. Rather than presume the existence of a “best” approach, we theorize that two types of diversity approaches, the value in difference approach (which focuses on the importance of social group differences) and the value in equality approach (which focuses on the importance of equality irrespective of differences), can each be effective, but only when they match the magnitude of threat employees experience and corresponding psychological needs that underlie feelings of inclusion. We propose that the value in equality approach is most effective when threat is high because it satisfies employees’ salient desire to belong and be accepted as an insider, whereas that the value in difference approach is most effective when threat is low because it satisfies employees’ salient desire to be respected for the unique characteristics they contribute. Further, we develop a two-step recursive process for promoting inclusion as threat evolves over time. This model reconciles mixed results in past research, substantively extends existing theory, and informs leaders’ efforts to promote inclusion across contexts.

    Keywords: diversity; gender; race and ethnicity; leadership; inclusion; Diversity; Gender; Race; Ethnicity; Equality and Inequality; Leadership;


    Lees, J., and Evan Apfelbaum. "To Highlight or Downplay Differences? A Threat-Matching Model for Crafting Diversity Approaches." In Making a Case for Diversity: Pros, Cons, and Complexities. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, August 2017.  View Details