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Pratt Named O'Connor Family Professor

Pratt appointed inaugural holder of the O’Connor Family Professorship in CSOM

11/03/11
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Michael G. Pratt has been appointed the inaugural holder of the O’Connor Family Professorship in the Carroll School of Management. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Patricia Delaney | Deputy Director of News & Public Affairs

Published: Nov. 3, 2011

A widely recognized expert on the role of identity in organizational dynamics and on qualitative methodology, Michael G. Pratt has been appointed the inaugural holder of the O’Connor Family Professorship in the Carroll School of Management.

The professorship was made possible through the generosity of University Trustee David P. O’Connor ’86, senior managing partner, president, and chief investment officer at High Rise Capital Management LP in New York, and his wife, Maureen A. O'Connor.  

“I owe a great deal of my business success to the outstanding teaching I enjoyed while I was a student in the Carroll School, and Maureen and I recognized that a gift to support faculty would help to ensure that current and future students have the same experience,” O’Connor said.  “We also know that the continued success of the Carroll School will be determined in large part by the quality of its faculty, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that Mike has been named the first O’Connor Family Professor.  He is clearly an acknowledged force in his field.”

“Mike is a top scholar in the field of organization studies and his work has been acclaimed by both national and international academicians,” said Carroll School Dean Andy Boynton in announcing the appointment. “His research on organizational and professional identity is extremely well regarded and is both foundational and innovative.”

Pratt said, “I am deeply grateful and honored by this appointment. I want to express my gratitude to the O’Connors for their continuing investment in BC, and to the University and the Carroll School of Management for their recognition of my work and their confidence that I will continue to represent BC well.

“I also realize that ‘individual’ accomplishments such as these are never achieved alone,” he said. “I am thankful for my supportive family, dean, and colleagues.”

Pratt, a native of Erie, Pa., who holds master’s and doctoral degrees in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, joined the Carroll School faculty in 2008. In addition to teaching courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and qualitative research methods in the Organization and Management Department, he is director of its doctoral program, a fellow at the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, and holds a courtesy appointment in the Psychology Department of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Pratt’s current research focuses on how people connect with the work that they do, as well as to the organizations, professions, occupations, and other groups in which they find themselves. A central question, he says, is “How do individuals approach their work? As a vehicle for attaining money, gaining achievement, creating community, serving others, and/or honing a craft? And what difference does their approach make to their performance?

“Given that job satisfaction has been steadily declining for the past two decades, even during times of economic boom, and that less than a third of workers are actively engaged in their jobs,” this research area can provide valuable insights for both employees and managers, he said.

Pratt also is fascinated by a fundamental issue facing all organizations: How do leaders manage competing viewpoints, especially when they involve differences in identity? His research examines, for example, what happens when group conflicts evolve from relatively simple differences related to wants and interests to more complex clashes over identity – such as interactions between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, he said, or discord between physicians and hospital administrators. “How are such seemingly intractable conflicts resolved?” he asks.

Even when there is not such overt conflict, other issues surrounding identity plurality remain, he said. For one, “How do organizations, that are beholden to multiple stakeholders not only create multiple identities in service of these stakeholders, but also integrate these identities into a dynamic whole? In other words, how do leaders manage pressures for a company to be ‘many things to many people,’ alongside the need for it to retain some sense of coherent common purpose – both of which are essential for an organization to be successful?”

“The impact of Mike’s work is significant,” said Boynton, noting Pratt’s nearly 1,000 citations in the Web of Science Social Science Index and “too many to count” in Google Scholar. Pratt’s research has appeared in a wide range of leading journals including Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, and the Academy of Management Review, among others, as well as in numerous edited books. He is co-editor of Artifacts and Organizations: Beyond Mere Symbolism.

A member of the International Advisory Board for the Center for the Advancement of Research Methods and Analysis, Pratt was co-recipient of the 2007 Best Paper Award for the Academy of Management Review, is the outgoing inaugural qualitative associate editor for the Academy of Management Journal and recently finished a term as division chair for the Academy of Management.