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Set challenging but realistic goals for your organization

When establishing organizational goals, managers should avoid setting overly ambitious goals because they can hurt productivity, market performance and employee morale, according to new School of Management research.

The study indicated that employees are motivated more by small wins and challenging, incremental goals than by seemingly impossible stretch goals.

"Some managers attempt to rapidly improve their organization's competitive position by adopting goals for impressive achievements that will excite staff and stakeholders," says lead author Jim Lemoine, assistant professor of organization and human resources. "But if those goals are unrealistic because of current resources, employees may lose confidence in their performance and the organization."

Published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, the study analyzed 219 substance use disorder treatment centers — a field in which stretch goals are used frequently because of resource uncertainty and fiscal instability.

The researchers found stretch goals were most harmful in organizations that had recently experienced success.

"In organizations with a strong record of efficiency and growth, employees may become burned out or demotivated by being asked to perform at even higher levels," Lemoine says. "In fact, we found centers with relatively abundant resources became inefficient when managers set unrealistic expectations."

Of course, the question of whether a goal is difficult or impossible to achieve is subjective. Lemoine recommends managers consult with employees on what they perceive as realistically attainable.

"For those without prior experience in managerial goal-setting, establishing high-reaching goals might seem like a harmless exercise with potentially huge payoffs," Lemoine says. "Our research should serve as a cautionary tale for organizations in all industries and encourage managers to take a thoughtful look at their short- and long-term goals."

Lemoine's co-authors were Terry Blum, professor, Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business, and Paul M. Roman, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, University of Georgia.

Double cheeseburger and a diet soda, please

While more consumers than ever are concerned about eating a healthy diet, they tend to purchase a balance of healthy and less-healthy foods, according to new School of Management research published in the Journal of Retailing.

"There is a disconnect between what people say they want to eat and what they actually purchase," says co-author Minakshi Trivedi, professor of marketing. "Each group we studied made tradeoffs on healthy and unhealthy food to varying degrees."

The researchers analyzed two years of scanner data across more than 70 stores of a major U.S. retail chain, along with survey responses from 400 of its shoppers to see if consumers consciously balanced their health concerns with their food purchases.

The study grouped consumers using a mathematical model based on their attitudes and concerns: the first group was health-driven, the second took a more moderate approach and the third was indifferent to healthier versions.


When faced with healthy choices — which the study based on the level of fat, sugar or salt — the consumer segments showed distinct variations in characteristics, purchasing behavior and response to price and discounts.

Price had the smallest impact on the health-driven group, where 92 percent of buyers consistently purchased healthy options. The moderate group was more price sensitive and likely to balance between healthy and regular versions of products — about half of buyers in this group chose healthy options. The third group was most affected by price and preferred regular versions over healthy alternatives.

Retailers can use these findings to design strategies to meet demand for and encourage purchases of healthier products, according to the authors. The study provides guidance to retailers about products to bundle for promotions and which element of the bundle to promote.

As for public policy, "If government agencies are to have any impact in promoting healthy consumption, they need to tailor their strategies to specific behavioral segments," says Trivedi.

Trivedi collaborated on the project with Karthik Sridhar, assistant professor of marketing, Baruch College Zicklin School of Business; and Ashish Kumar, assistant professor of marketing, Aalto University School of Business.

Hamlen, Rao retire


After 43 years of service, Susan Hamlen retired in May. An associate professor, Hamlen was chair of the Accounting and Law Department since 2003. She earned a doctorate in accounting and a master's in management from Purdue University, as well as a bachelor's in accounting from the University of California at Berkeley. Hamlen taught introductory, intermediate and advanced accounting at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels, and is author or co-author of several accounting textbooks, book chapters and scholarly journal articles.

Hamlen also served on the Faculty Senate, the Provost's Advisory Task Force on Incentives and Resource Allocation, the President's Task Force on Women at UB, and the Graduate School Personnel Committee. Most recently, she co-led the school's successful AACSB reaccreditation for the accounting program.


H. Raghav Rao, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Management Science and Systems Department, retired in July after nearly 29 years. He has a doctorate from Purdue University, an MBA from Delhi University and a B Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology. Rao was co-architect of UB's Information Assurance (IA)/Cybersecurity program and taught information assurance, networks and e-commerce. He has received numerous distinctions, including the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities and a Fulbright Fellowship. He also was honored as a World Class University Professor at Sogang University from 2010 to 2013.

Rao and his colleagues raised several million dollars in grants for research, capacity building and scholarship, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. He is delighted that his IA students have landed careers with the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, the FTC and such firms as Deloitte, HP, Ernst & Young, M&T Bank and Microsoft.

How to prevent your workplace from turning toxic


When employees are undermined at work, they begin to undermine their colleagues — causing a vicious cycle, according to new research from the School of Management.

Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the study advises organizations to develop workplace ethics training programs and hire employees who value morality, to limit the cycle of undermining. Managers can also emphasize moral values at work by displaying posters or slogans with such values.

"When an employee is undermined, it hinders their ability to achieve success, maintain positive relationships and build their reputation," says lead author KiYoung Lee, assistant professor of organization and human resources. "This kind of interpersonal aggression costs organizations about $6 billion each year in health problems, employee turnover and productivity loss."

The researchers surveyed 182 employees at 25 branches of two Korean banks. They conducted two rounds of surveys to measure whether those who had been victims of undermining would later become perpetrators. The first survey measured employees' levels of undermining victimization, moral identity and interpersonal justice and included control variables. The second survey, conducted one month later, measured employees' levels of moral disengagement, resource depletion and engagement in social undermining.

The study found that as victims feel they've been treated disrespectfully and unfairly, they feel entitled to be selfish toward co-workers.

"The fact that victims become selfish is troublesome because it makes it easier to rationalize doing harm to others," says Lee. "We use this to justify our actions, for instance, by calling undermining 'part of the game.'"

Lee collaborated on the project with Eugene Kim, assistant professor of organizational behavior, Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business; Devasheesh Bhave, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources, Singapore Management University; and Michelle Duffy, Board of Overseers Professor of Work and Organizations, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

Study finds three key factors to crowdfunding success

For entrepreneurs using crowdfunding to bring new products to market, high-quality photos and video, previous crowdfunding success and positive comments from backers are the keys to a successful campaign, according to new research from the School of Management.

The study found that by receiving these signals, potential investors, also known as backers in crowdfunding, gain valuable information that motivates them to participate and increases the likelihood of a project achieving its funding goal.


"These sources are important because backers of crowdfunded projects have less access to information than typical private equity investors," says co-author Yong Li, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship. "Private equity investors follow a stringent due diligence process to assess the quality of a startup, while crowdfunding backers rely more on the information on the campaign's webpage."

Researchers also found that these signals interact to impact crowdfunding success. For example, video and photos will be more important when the project founder has no prior crowdfunding success, and positive backer comments certify the credibility of video and photos.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to fund their projects through a large number of relatively small contributions via the internet, bypassing the usual private equity investors like angels and venture capitalists.


Kickstarter is currently the largest and most dominant crowdfunding platform. Globally, crowdfunding campaigns raised nearly $2.7 billion in 2012 and $35 billion in 2015, showing promise as a viable option of financing entrepreneurship, according to the study.

The researchers analyzed a sample of more than 170,000 Kickstarter projects from the site's inception in 2009 through Dec. 27, 2015. To review backer comments, they used a computer-based algorithm to measure the strength of positive sentiments and examine the impact on crowdfunding success.

Li collaborated on the project with School of Management colleagues Supradeep Dutta, assistant professor of operations management and strategy, and Christopher Courtney, Western New York Prosperity Fellow and doctoral student.

Lemoine honored by Buffalo schools


Jim Lemoine, assistant professor of organization and human resources, was named the 2016 Buffalo Public School Wellness Team Higher Education Partner of the Year by the Buffalo Public School District.

The award recognizes Lemoine's work to help improve student health, wellness and academic success, and his impact on team leadership, development and visioning in the district.

As part of a partnership between the district and the School of Management's Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, Lemoine provided a series of team building and strategic planning training sessions for health and wellness teams within Buffalo schools.