fbpx

Why are management academics important?

Why are management academics important?

Imposter syndrome, or the fear that we are frauds in our profession and will be “found out” at any time, is especially common among management academics.

Many high-achieving people in a variety of professions report that their achievements are the result of chance and circumstance rather than individual skill and merit.

The term “impostor syndrome” was coined in the 1970s, but its prevalence today is hardly surprising given the unprecedented specialisation and explosion of technology at work.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Management Studies, we discuss how the impostor syndrome is particularly prevalent in one occupation: management professors.

Management is a relatively new social science, but for a variety of reasons, academics in this field face unique challenges from students, peers, and other social scientists.

On a broader scale, the added value of business school is being called into question. What effect would this have on future academics?

Management is a new and interdisciplinary field.
Management is a relatively new field when compared to related fields such as sociology, economics, or psychology — the Academy of Management, the largest academic association in management, was founded between the two world wars.

Management, on the other hand, has evolved into a well-defined and rigorous field of study and research, with scholars publishing not only in their respective fields, but also in other social science journals such as the prestigious American Sociological Review or the American Economic Review. They’ve even gotten their work published in more generalist journals like Science and Nature.

Management research is interdisciplinary by definition, drawing on multiple fields in the humanities and social sciences and frequently bringing them together to generate novel contributions to research.

There is a lot of scepticism out there.
Other social scientists, on the other hand, continue to believe that management is not a legitimate scientific field. Our observations indicate that, in general, people do not give much credit to academic work in management because it is commonly (and unfavourably) regarded as something that is practised rather than researched.

Other people’s scepticism extends to them as well. Management scholars are exposed to students in business schools who are in the classroom to improve their performance or credentials in the business world.

As a result, management academics are frequently teaching executives who have a decade or more of experience than they do. The challenge is persuading those executives that researchers have something to offer in a field where they have little — or no — practical experience.

Internal difficulties
Despite being less recognised as a science than parallel fields, management scholarship has become increasingly competitive for junior scholars — the requirements for a tenure-track job or tenure in the field have exploded.

Academic superstars emerge, as in any other field, but the reference point is always a moving target: there will always be another scholar who is better published, has more practical experience, and is more well-known.

All of these factors contribute to early career management academics having doubts about their expertise, contribution to society, and the worth of their work.

Management academics are confronted in the classroom by managers who believe theories and research geeks have nothing to teach them. Management academics are not regarded as serious researchers by the general public or at the dinner table.

Is the Impostor Syndrome beneficial?
However, in management scholarship, the impostor syndrome does not have only negative consequences. In fact, it may even push academics in the right direction. Management scholars want to be proud of their work, which explains the recent interest in socially and practically useful work in the field.

For example, by addressing “grand challenges” such as poverty alleviation, migration, or climate change, the field has attempted to make broad contributions to society while also gaining recognition. Management studies, for example, have demonstrated how scientists can legitimately defend the existence of climate change when confronted with climate change deniers. Others have investigated refugee camp practises.

Meanwhile, management scholarship has been pushed to demonstrate impact, such as through the research assessment framework in the United Kingdom. Similar incentives are emerging in continental Europe for liaising with potential beneficiaries of management research.

With time, management scholars are able to demonstrate the value of social science in the education of business students.

The broader significance of management research
Organizational and management theories — toolboxes for understanding and interpreting new and existing phenomena derived from data observation — can give even well-educated managers an advantage.

However, we do notice some areas that need to be improved. As management scholars, we propose that our colleagues engage in management practises on a regular basis. Sabbaticals are an excellent opportunity for academics to spend a year consulting or doing field work. These experiences can help management academics gain legitimacy and network, as well as provide an escape from the ivory tower.

Management scholars, at the crossroads of various fields and with enormous power and responsibility to shape future business leaders, should not be afraid to play the role of public intellectuals, challenging management orthodoxy while also going beyond managerial questions.

Business schools can finally and deservedly be recognised as valuable to society with the help of management scholars acting as public intellectuals.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.