Organizational behavior PhD student brings home Best Student Paper prize

Phil Thompson, a second-year PhD student in organizational behavior, won Best Student Paper and was a finalist for Best Paper at the most recent Midwest Academy of Management conference, a regional conference in the field. Of the nine submissions chosen as finalists for Best Paper, Thompson’s was the only work written solely by a student.

In his paper, “Thanks, but No Thanks: The process of accepting or declining offers of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB),” Thompson proposes an entirely new angle on one of the top areas of interest to organizational behavior experts. OCB refers to helping behaviors freely offered by a member of an organization. The term connotes assistance that goes above and beyond the call of duty (or the job description). While virtually all previous scholarship has focused on the person who performs OCB, Thompson investigates how the person on the receiving end decides to accept or decline an offer of help.

“Most of the work on OCB assumes that offers of help are always accepted,” Thompson explained. “But there are a lot of reasons why someone might not want help with a particular project. The benefits of better understanding this process are innumerable, including improving organizational effectiveness and employee engagement.”

Thompson’s winning submission was completed as a capstone assignment at the close of his first year in the PhD program in organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School. Most recipients of Best Student Paper conference awards are much further along in their doctoral studies. Thompson attributes this level of recognition so early in his career as an academic to the strong guidance provided by his advisors, past and present.

“Having Diane Bergeron, [associate professor of organizational behavior]—one of the most respected scholars in the OCB field—as an adviser has been instrumental in my development,” Thompson said. “Don Fischer, my master’s program thesis advisor at Missouri State University, also spent countless hours building my writing skills prior to arriving to Weatherhead.”

Thompson credits departmental faculty with creating a collegial atmosphere where the spirit of inquiry that informed his paper can thrive.

“Our departmental seminar last year, led by Diane Bergeron and Susan Case, [associate professor of organizational behavior], provided a safe and supportive environment to question current organizational theory while encouraging us first- and second-year PhD students to begin the process of developing unique and impactful research identities,” said Thompson.

In addition to recognition at a conference luncheon, a commemorative plaque and waived entry fee to next year’s conference, Thompson’s prize includes preferred status if he submits his paper for publication in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, the official journal of the Midwest Academy of Management.