The PhD in Organizational Behavior program is a joint degree offered by the Harvard Business School together with the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The doctoral program in Organizational Behavior trains scholars who are able to draw on the concepts and methods of psychology and sociology in conducting research on behavior and management within complex organizations. Special attention is given to studies that bridge the gap between research and theory on one hand, and constructive organizational practice on the other. The program combines training in theory and methods of psychology or sociology, the study of business administration, and empirical research on organizational phenomena. Students have the choice of focusing their research at either the micro (i.e. psychological, individual, interpersonal, group) or macro (i.e. sociological, organizational) level.
The program admits a small number of exceptionally well-qualified individuals each year. A distinguished undergraduate record is expected, but candidates need not hold a degree in psychology or sociology. Some college work in statistics or mathematics is highly advisable. Candidates with some work experience in organizations are preferred. Successful candidates have exemplary GRE General Test or GMAT scores.
Adequate command of spoken and written English is required for admission. Non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL, unless they have obtained the equivalent of a US Bachelor degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction. The committee prefers scores of at least 100 on the Internet based test (IBT) of the TOEFL.
Further information about the program is available on the Harvard Business School website. Online applications are available on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website. Questions regarding the program should be directed to:
Harvard Business School
Doctoral Programs Office
All incoming students receive a merit-based award, regardless of need. This includes a fellowship for tuition and health fees, as well as a stipend for living expenses, for up to five years.
Students in the OB program specialize in micro-organizational behavior or sociology. Students receive core disciplinary training in either psychology or sociology, and gain knowledge of existing research and theory about organizations through advanced coursework in organizational behavior. An advisor from Harvard Business School or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are appointed for each student upon matriculation. They aid the student in planning her or his program of study.
The sociology track deals with the macro aspects of organizational behavior. It focuses primarily on organizational processes and structures and on organizations in relation to their environments. Students also become familiar with some of the more micro issues emphasized within the micro-organizational track.
The micro-organizational track is for students who wish to concentrate on the psychological aspects of organizational behavior. The primary focus is on the psychology of individuals as they engage in decision-making, interpersonal relations and small group activities. Students also become familiar with some of the more macro issues emphasized within the sociology track.
To complete the PhD in organizational behavior, students must fulfill the following requirements:
Students in the OB program specialize in micro-organizational behavior or sociology. Students receive core disciplinary training in either psychology or sociology, and gain knowledge of existing research and theory about organizations through advanced coursework in organizational behavior.
Students also take the Business Education for Scholars and Teachers (BEST) Series, which is designed to provide doctoral students with immersion in topics critical to business school scholarship and teaching.
Sociology track students complete a written general examination in Sociology.
Both micro-organizational behavior and sociology track students complete the Organizational Behavior Exam. This examination completes the student’s preparation for work on the doctoral dissertation. It provides an excellent occasion for the student to draw on all of his or her academic preparation and training to demonstrate readiness for first-rate conceptual and empirical work on organizational phenomena.
Both micro-organizational behavior and sociology track students undergo a dossier review. The dossier consists of their qualifying paper, at least two other research papers, and a brief statement indicating their plans for future research and dissertation work.
Field Research Requirement
The Field Research requirement is designed to provide students with the opportunity to engage in a field experience that will expose them to organizations and markets dealing with real-world challenges and help them advance their own research agenda. Students are able to choose a field site, with the approval of faculty advisors and the Doctoral Programs Office, to conduct an intensive 5-8 field visit for research exposure and development.
Students are required to complete a teaching engagement of one full academic term that includes at least 8 hours of front-of-class teaching experience and at least 16 hours of teaching preparation time.
The dissertation is the culminating event in the Program, in which the student develops a substantial original contribution to knowledge in the field of Organizational Behavior. Dissertations may take the form of an extended study of one topic, or a set of three or more related research papers.
Students must prepare a dissertation prospectus which will be reviewed by the prospectus committee typically consisting of three or four faculty members. Micro-Organizational Behavior track committees are ordinarily chaired by a member of the HBS faculty, and students should consult the chair of their committee while choosing other members. Committees must include at least two Harvard faculty having ladder appointments, at least one of whom must be from HBS. Ideally dissertation committees will include both HBS and FAS faculty.
Sociology track committees must include at least one member from the HBS faculty and at least one from the FAS faculty. They are typically chaired by a member of either the HBS or the Sociology faculty.
Recent PhD Dissertation Titles
- "Bringing Worlds Together: Cultural Brokerage in Multicultural Teams"
- "Encouraging Healthful Dietary Behavior in a Hospital Cafeteria: A Field Study using Theories from Social Psychology and Behavioral Economics"
- "Intentional Ambiguity"
- "The Impact of Visual Cues on Judgment and Perceptions in Performance Contexts"
- "Social Structure and Mechanisms of Collective Production: Evidence from Wikipedia"
- "Men and the Ideal Worker Image"
- "Social Capital Activation during Times of Organizational Change"
- "Remembrance of Things Past: Individual Imprinting in Organizations"
- "The Invisible Hand and the Good of Communities: The Influence of Institutional Logics on the Founding Teams of Local Banks"
- "The Timing and Type of Team Coaching Interventions"
- "Deadly Decisions: An Examination of Racial Bias in the Decision to Shoot Under Threat"
- "Mission Goes Corporate: Employee Behavior in a Mission-driven Business"
Organizational Behavior faculty members come from both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Business School. They include, but are not limited to:
Jeffrey T. Polzer, Chair, UPS Foundation Professor of Human Resource Management. Global collaboration; diverse teams; effect of group affiliations on individuals’ decisions, perceptions, and social interactions.
Teresa M. Amabile, Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration. Creativity and innovation, primarily impact of work environments and everyday events on motivation, emotion, individual creativity, team creativity, and organizational innovation.
Mahzarin Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics. Social cognition, unconscious cognition, institutional corruption.
Julie Battilana, Associate Professor of Business Administration. Conditions that enable actors to initiate change that diverges from the institutional status quo, process by which they implement such change.
Max Bazerman, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration. Decision making, negotiation, creation of joint gains in society, and natural environment.
Michael Beer, Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration Emeritus. Organization effectiveness, human resource management, and organization change.
Iris Bohnet, Professor of Public Policy,Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School. Trust and decision-making, gender or cross-cultural perspective.
Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government. Theoretical, historical and quantitative analysis of American political development, public bureaucracies and government regulation, particularly regulation of health products.
Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration. Management issues related to the development and commercialization of technological and business model innovation.
Roy Chua, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. Creativity and innovation, multiculturalism, social networking dynamics.
Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Hellman Faculty Fellow. Social categories, origins and outcomes of how we perceive and are influenced by other people, roles of culture, emotions, nonverbal behaviors.
Frank Dobbin, Professor of Sociology. Organizational theory, comparative/historical sociology, economic sociology, public policy, and stratification.
Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management. Learning processes in teams and organizations.
Robin Ely, Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean for Culture and Community. Race and gender relations, diversity, leadership, and group dynamics.
Heidi Gardner, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. Teams and use of members’ expertise, organizational design and knowledgebased innovation.
Francesca Gino, Associate Professor of Business Administration. Judgment and decision-making, ethics, social influence, emotions and creativity.
Boris Groysberg, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration. Managing service firms, sustainable competitive advantage.
Ranjay Gulati, Jaime and Josefina Chua Tiampo Professor of Business Administration, Unit Head, Organizational Behavior, Chair, Advanced Management Program.. Strategic and organizational issues in firms, intra- and inter-firm partnerships, patterns of network of ties.
Monica Higgins, Professor of Education. Leadership development and organizational change, higher education and urban public schools.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration. Strategy, innovation, and leadership for change.
Rakesh Khurana, Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development. CEO labor market, search, and succession.
Karim Lakhani, Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration. Management of technological innovation and product development, distributed innovation systems, open source software communities, innovation and product development strategies.
Michele Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies; Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies. Sociology of inequality, race and ethnicity, the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of higher education, sociological theory and comparative and qualitative sociology.
Jennifer Lerner, Professor of Public Policy and Management. Decision sciences, emotion, and accountability.
Jay W. Lorsch, Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations. Changing practices and behavior in American boardrooms.
Joshua Margolis, James Dinan and Elizabeth Miller Professor of Business Administration. Ethical challenges in organizations, ethical complexity in business, and how to equip and enable people to handle both.
Peter V. Marsden, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of Sociology and Harvard College Professor; Dean of Social Science. Social networks, organizational analysis, quantitative methods, survey research methods.
Kathleen L. McGinn, Chair; Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration. Gender in negotiations and organizations, impact of interpersonal relationships on negotiations and social change.
Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics. Development economics, behavioral economics, and corporate finance.
Tsedal Neeley, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow. Global collaboration and working across national and linguistic boundaries; the impact of language, power, status, and emotions on social dynamics.
Michael Norton, Associate Professor of Business Administration. Social norms on people’s attitudes and behavior, addressing the key role that social factors play in shaping the preferences of individuals; the psychology of investment.
Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology. Sociology of economic development with special reference to Caribbean, historical sociology of slavery and freedom, sociology of slavery, Caribbean and Afro-American culture and social structure, and ethnicity from critical and social- philosophical perspective.
Leslie A. Perlow, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership. Interaction during work and implications on organizational productivity, individual careers, and family life.
Mikolaj Piskorski, Associate Professor of Business Administration; Marvin Bower Fellow. Social networks and on-line social platforms.
Lakshmi Ramarajan, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. Effects of multiple identities and group boundaries on interpersonal and intergroup relations.
Todd Rogers, Assistant Professor of Public Policy. Socially consequential problems, cognitive and social factors, intention and action, behavioral science.
James Sidanius, Professor of Psychology; Professor Africa and African American Studies. Political psychology of gender, group conflict, institutional discrimination and the evolutionary psychology of intergroup prejudice.
Michael Tushman, Paul R. Lawrence MBA Class of 1942 Professor of Business Administration. Relations among technological change, senior executive teams, and organizational evolution; senior team and organization design challenges associated with exploration and exploiting current capabilities.
Ruth Wageman, Associate Faculty in Psychology. Design and leadership of task performing teams, effective leadership of teams, leadership development.
Noam Wasserman, Associate Professor of Business Administration. Founder dilemmas: the difficult early choices faced by founders that have long-term implications for them and their startups.
Daniel Wegner, Professor of Psychology. Role of thought in self-control and social life.
Martin K. Whyte, Professor of Sociology. Comparative sociology, sociology of the family, sociology of development, the sociological study of contemporary China, and the study of post-communist transitions.
Christopher Winship, Diker-Tishman Professorof Sociology. Analysis of quantitative data, changes in social and economic status of African-Americans, transition to adulthood, and family formation process.