Jacob Hirsh

Academy of Management Review announces recipients of its 2018 Best Article Award

Sarah Jane Silva

Jacob B. Hirsh, assistant professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management for the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Department of Management, is the latest recipient of the prestigious Academy of Management Review (AMR) Best Article Award, along with co-author Eric M. Anicich from the University of Southern California.

The paper, titled, “The Psychology of Middle Power: Vertical Code-Switching, Role Conflict, and Behavioral Inhibition,” was published in the October 2017 issue of the Academy of Management Review (AMR), and focuses on middle managers as a distinct group of employees who must repeatedly alternate between interacting with higher- and lower-power colleagues.

"It's very stressful for people in middle power positions to balance the conflicting role expectations from upper management on the one hand, and the employees that they are responsible for on the other,” said Hirsh.

“Middle management can get burned out very easily if organizations aren’t taking steps to mitigate the experience of being caught between these two opposing forces.”

According to the article, vertical code-switching, which involves flipping between high and low power interaction styles, requires a dedicated analytical and managerial approach in order to understand and mitigate the challenges associated with it.

“Part of what this model does is reveal the disproportionate stress that is placed on middle management due to the conflicting social expectations that they are faced with.”

The ability to flip back and forth between higher and lower power mindsets is a unique psychological role requirement that hasn’t received much attention, says Hirsh.

"Hopefully, with this kind of research in mind, we can develop better management strategies for reducing the amount of stress that we’re placing on these middle managers.”

Research on the psychological effects of social power has focused almost exclusively on what it’s like to be at the top or the bottom, and there have been few studies on the experiences of people in the middle.

Hirsh, who received his PhD from the University of Toronto, has published his work in Psychological Review, Psychological Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Review, and Perspectives on Psychological Science, among others.

His research primarily focuses on the cognitive and affective dynamics underlying personality, motivation, and decision-making. International and local media, such as Psychology Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Globe & Mail, often turn to Hirsh for his expertise.

Ranked as one of the top most influential and frequently cited management publications, AMR is a theory development journal that publishes articles that challenge conventional wisdom concerning all aspects of organizations and their role in society, providing new theoretical insights into management practices.