Under Review

Faculty research projects enhance understanding of financial and management quandaries

Faculty members in the Black School of Business do more than impart information to students; they actively create new knowledge and insights through innovative research projects addressing today’s business challenges. After all, who better to dig deep into complex business problems than professional business educators?

Another tax holiday?

In 2004, in an effort to stimulate the economy, Congress enacted a repatriation tax holiday, allowing large multinational companies to bring profits back to the United States at a greatly reduced tax rate.

Supporters said it would inject much-needed funds into the U.S. economy that would otherwise stay stashed in banks overseas. Detractors thought it would simply line the pockets of investors.

Under the law, corporations brought $362 billion into the American economy.

“The question is: Did the tax holiday promote domestic investment, or was it just distributed to shareholders?” asked Dr. Xin (Jessica) Zhao, professor of finance, who has been researching the impact of the policy with her colleague, Dr. Qi (Flora) Dong, assistant professor of accounting.

“Essentially, we are trying to determine if the tax holiday realized its intended purpose,” Zhao said. “It’s important to know that because Congress is considering a major tax reform that may change how multinational firms get taxed on their foreign earnings.”

Zhao and Dong said they wanted to take a closer look at this issue because prior studies show mixed results regarding the efficacy of the tax holiday policy. The two have written a paper about their research, which is currently under review at an academic journal.

“We made some methodological improvements and found results undocumented in prior research,” Zhao said.

Managing misfits

According to Dr. Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management, most companies have a few misfits, which he defines as employees whose personal values are incongruent with the values of the organization.

“These are employees who feel like they don’t belong and find their work unfulfilling, so they are often disengaged,” he said. “They may not even know it or know why, but it affects their work and productivity.”

You may think misfits would (or should) just quit, but it’s not always possible or practical for myriad reasons ranging from financial security to a lack of alternatives in the area where they live.

“My research partners and I wanted to examine the problem from the perspective of the misfit employee and learn what might be done to buffer the detriments of not fitting with company values,” Vogel said.

He and two University of Georgia professors conducted a survey study of 200 employees from a wide variety of disciplines and companies.

Their research uncovered two potential proactive strategies—job crafting and leisure activities—that enabled misfits to maintain levels of engagement and performance similar to their colleagues who did fit.

“Job crafting refers to an employee’s actions to shape, mold, and redefine their job in an attempt to improve their experience at work,” Vogel said. “It basically means making the job suit your needs and interests by doing more of what you enjoy and find engaging, and finding ways to limit tasks and social interactions that are unpleasant and personally draining.”

Counterintuitively, the other factor that can improve a misfit’s productivity and job satisfaction is what they do outside of the office.

“For misfits, leisure activities may serve as a substitute for needs unfulfilled at work,” Vogel said. “It’s possible that leisure activity makes employees more psychologically available to engage in their work, and there’s evidence that it can serve as a form of recovery—renewing energy and enabling employees to invest themselves in their jobs.”

The takeaway for misfits: “You can make poor job fit a more tolerable situation,” Vogel said. And, for managers: “Offering your employees some autonomy in how they spend their time and who they work with can lead to increased productivity,” Vogel said. “Let them play to their strengths. Also, encourage and support their off-the-job pursuits. Research shows that offering employees opportunities to do service work and other meaningful experiences outside of the office benefits the employee and the organizations.”

Vogel’s findings also highlight the ways organizations can take advantage of the pluses of having employees with differing values.

“Companies need misfits,” he said. “Without the fresh thinking that can come along with having a few misfits, organizations cannot grow or evolve and, so they tend to fail in the long run.”

Vogel’s research findings were published in the October issue of the Academy of Management Journal.