The Year in Research: Top 18 of 2018

Each year, faculty of the University of Washington Foster School of Business produce influential research—on a wide array of topics—that advances academic theory and advises management practice. As we wind down the year, here are 18 most-read research briefs of 2018—a heady mix current publications plus a few perennial favorites.


#1 Bullying Boss?

An abusive boss can make you feel helpless and hopeless. But Elijah Wee finds a way out of the persistent cycle of abuse. Flipping the power dynamic, even a bit—by making yourself essential in some way—can bring an end to supervisory bullying, and even lead to reconciliation.


#2 Heavy Breathing

When the air is choked with pollutants, it incites a litany of well-documented physical ailments. Ryan Fehr evaluates the psychological effects of toxic smog that increasingly enshrouds many cities around the world, and calculates its heavy toll on the bottom lines of businesses.


#3 The Nuance of Narcissism

Narcissistic leaders are particularly prone to act in their own self-interest when they feel that they are being treated unfairly, according this study by Ryan Fehr. The repercussions of this enhanced egoism are damaging to employees and organizations.


Downward arrows#4 Marketing: FAILS

If the best-laid plans of mice and marketers often go awry, just imagine what happens to the worst-laid plans. In this 2011 classic, Shelley Jain, Elizabeth Stearns and Dan Turner share their favorite cautionary tales of classic botches and blunders in the marketing of a new product.


#5 Financial Profiling

How do investors, auditors, analysts and regulators detect material accounting manipulations? Not easily. But in this 2010 Study, Weili Ge first integrates the disparate warning signals of fraudulent accounting into a comprehensive measure called the “F-Score,” a scaled probability that a firm is cooking the books.


#6 Mixed Messaging

When announcing corporate earnings, it matters that the message fit the medium. Frank Hodge and Stephanie Grant demonstrate that investors react differently to positive earnings news when the same message is delivered via different media. Bragging on a conference call is fine with investors—but the same boasts backfire over social media.


Computer code, with phrases "Data Breach" and "Cyber Attack"#7 The Dark Side of Big Data

Data breach. The thought alone can send us into a panic of existential dread. This 2016 study by Abhishek Borah and Robert Palmatier establishes that customer data vulnerability exacerbates the financial cost to firms—and sometimes their competitors—when they get hacked. But this cost can be mitigated by offering greater transparency and customer control in corporate data management policies.


#8 The Imitation Game

Corporate strategy is rife with imitation. But Abhinav Gupta indicates that high-level organizational imitation can have more to do with personality than rationality. Specifically, firms are more likely to emulate competitors led by charismatic CEOs and less likely to emulate competitors led by narcissists.


picture of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial#9 Advantage: Humility

Humility may be a virtue. It’s also a competitive advantage. In this 2012 paper, Michael Johnson finds that humble people—who view themselves accurately, are teachable and appreciate others’ strengths—tend to be the best performers in individual and team settings. They also tend to make the most effective leaders.


#10 Sharing Fortunes

Crowdfunding offers small businesses a speedy alternative to bank loans and small investors an accessible alternative to the stock market. Now Michael Wagner demonstrates that a new kind of crowdfunding—built around revenue-sharing contracts—best serves the interests of both businesses and investors.


World map with head avatars placed throughout#11 Protest Too Much?

When campaigning for social change, disruption may win a few battles, but education is more likely to win the war. Abhinav Gupta indicates that disruptive tactics such as protests can yield limited immediate success, but educational tactics that appeal to reason are more effective at expanding the objectives of a cause more broadly.


#12 Morning Bias

The early bird gets the worm. And, it seems, the esteem of managers. Ryan Fehr and Chris Barnes document a distinct morning bias which may be undermining the benefit of flextime policies. Bosses implicitly regard employees who arrive bright and early as more conscientious and effective than their later-arriving colleagues.


#13 How to Keep Good People

Should I stay or should I go? Management researchers have been studying this fundamental question, in the context of work, for over a century. Now Tom Lee distills the wisdom from thousands of academic papers into a modern set of best practices for managing employee retention and turnover.


#14 Why Risk It?

Why do some firms take so many risks while others seek certainty? Stephan Siegel determines that a firm’s leaders tend to share common attitudes toward risk and uncertainty, creating a culture that dictates a firm’s willingness to invest in R&D and engage in M&A activities. These attitudes toward risk persist over time—often evolving little from the risk profile of a firm’s founder.


#15 Shame v. Guilt

In her 2013 study, Nidhi Agrawal demonstrates that public service announcements can backfire when the message does not fit the emotional state of its intended audience. A poorly designed anti-drinking message that elicits shame, for example, can drive a young person to drink even more.


#16 Moral Attentiveness

We may see ethics in black and white or infinite shades of gray. But whether we even identify decisions as ethical depends on our level of moral attentiveness. In this 2009 study, Scott Reynolds finds that a person’s level of moral attentiveness predicts her moral behavior over time—with important ramifications in the workplace.


#17 Pricing Right

Business-to-business (B2B) enterprises traditionally charge their cost plus a reasonable margin. But in his 2013 paper, Jonathan Zhang proposes a new dynamic pricing strategy—informed by data on customer behavior and adjusted over time—that can increase profitability by as much as 52 percent while maintaining healthy customer relationships.


#18 Value or Growth?

Stephan Siegel’s 2016 twins study indicates that our tendency to invest in either value or growth stocks is influenced both by our genetic predispositions and by the economic environment we experienced as children and young adults. It also offers new evidence supporting both rational and behavioral explanations for the “value premium”—the consistent outperformance of value over growth stocks.