Organizational Behavior

In the field of organizational behavior we research fundamental questions about the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations, from both psychological and sociological perspectives.

A distinguishing feature of Stanford’s PhD Program in organizational behavior is the broad interdisciplinary training it provides. Our students benefit from their interactions with scholars from many disciplines within the Graduate School of Business, as well as from Stanford University’s long-standing strength in the study of psychology, organizations, and economic sociology. The program is broken down into two broad subareas: Macro Organizational Behavior and Micro Organizational Behavior.

Cross-registration in courses, access to faculty, and participation in colloquia are available in other Stanford departments, such as sociology and psychology. Strong relations with these departments mean that students can build their careers on the foundation of strong disciplinary training in psychology and sociology, respectively.

A small number of students are accepted into the program each year, with a total of about 20 organizational behavior students in residence.

The doctoral program places a heavy emphasis on training students through active engagement in the process of doing research. In addition to formal seminars with invited presenters, our faculty and students exchange research ideas and advice at informal weekly lunches and lab meetings. Students work as research assistants and are expected to conduct independent research early in the program. 

Macro Organizational Behavior: Organizational Theory and Economic Sociology

Dedicated to training students who will be leading researchers in the fields of organizational theory and economic sociology. Our faculty members are among the foremost scholars dedicated to bringing a sociological approach to the study of organizations and markets.

The training provides a deep grounding in the study of:

  • Organizations as social systems
  • The dynamics of change in organizations
  • Industries and markets
  • The relationships between organizations and their environments

Faculty study a range of topics, such as:

  • The role of identity in organizational processes
  • Organizational culture and its dynamics
  • Change in cultural categories and markets
  • Social movements and their influence on firms and markets
  • Firm strategies and the effects of long-run histories of strategic interaction
  • The impact of workforce demographic change and labor market inequality
  • Organizational learning processes
  • Social networks
  • Entrepreneurship and firm formation processes

Micro Organizational Behavior

The study of how individuals and groups affect and are affected by organizational context. Drawing primarily on psychological approaches to social science questions, this area includes such topics as:

  • Cognition
  • Decision-making
  • Moral judgment
  • Social norms
  • Negotiation and bargaining
  • Cooperation and altruism
  • Emotions
  • Leadership
  • Group processes
  • Stereotyping and injustice
  • Personality
  • Power, status and influence

There is also a formal institutional link between the behavioral side of marketing and the micro side of organizational behavior, which is called the Behavioral Interest Group. The Stanford GSB Behavioral Lab links members of this group. This lab supports work across field boundaries among those with behavioral interests.

Preparation and Qualifications

All students are required to have, or to obtain during their first year, mathematical skills at the level of one course each of calculus and linear algebra, probability, and mathematical statistics.

Recent Journal Articles in Organizational Behavior

J.M. Rohrer, B. Egloff, Michal Kosinski, S.C. Schmukle
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. August
2018, Vol. 115, Issue 2, Pages 304–320
David W. Lehman, Balázs Kovács, Glenn R. Carroll
Socius. August
2018, Vol. 2018
Dan Wang, Alessandro Piazza, Sarah A. Soule
Annual Reviews of Sociology. July
2018, Vol. 44, Pages 167-187

Recent Insights by Stanford Business

September 13, 2018
A Stanford expert on workplace dynamics shows why many teams fail.
A team works together to solve a problem. Credit: iStock/Anchly
September 7, 2018
Artisans who find meaning in their masterpieces are more likely to charge less to connoisseurs.
A group of women selling jewelry and handicrafts at the walls of the Jaisalmer fort in Rajasthan India. Credit: iStock/Aluxum
August 24, 2018
As businesses go global, it pays to understand the beliefs underpinning behaviors that might seem strange.
Portraits by contemporary artist JR are displayed on the worksite boarding placed around the dome on the Pantheon. Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann