PhD in Organization Theory/ macro-Organizational Behavior

Organizations are ubiquitous. That is not surprising given their extremely important role in varied domains ranging from the provision of order, education, and health; the production and sale of consumer goods, operation of financial markets, and the development and distribution of novel ideas, norms and values, amongst many other roles. Thus the study of organizations is central to our understanding of societies and economies. How societies and markets change and persist is therefore closely related to understanding organizations’ change and persistence, which is a principal interest of Organization Theory (OT) research. Persistence and change co-exist and co-constitute one another and include various accompanying processes. For example, change is often accompanied by contestation as the status-quo is often preferred by some while challenged by others. Alluding to the past, history, legacy, tradition, and the role of time often underlie and enable organizations’ persistence. Concepts such as conformity, creativity, innovation and identity, hint to both persistence and change and are thus central to investigating how and why organizations, organizational forms, organizational populations and categories persist and change. Specifically, what are the antecedents, underlying processes and consequences explaining their change and persistence? 

We are looking for a PhD candidate in OT/macro-OB to be part of this broad research program. The specific focus of the PhD projects will be determined in collaboration between the PhD candidate and the supervising faculty with strong encouragement for the student’s development of her/his particular interests; generally the expectation is that the focus would take a macro perspective and be aligned with the supervisors’ core expertise.


Organizations, persistence, change, community, contestation, wrongdoing, scandals, legitimacy, conformity, creativity, authenticity, ideology, power and politics, time, history, institutional theory, social movement theory, social evaluations, social construction


Contestation and contested industries – is a fast-growing area of research in OT that aims to address the triggers of contestation and the conditions for its persistence, as well as understanding contestation dynamics and its outcomes. Contestation often arises when change is introduced and parties disagree on the need for, nature of, and/or implications of such a change. Many times different underlying interests, values, norms, etc. provide powerful impetus for the contesting parties. As such contestation, involving organizations and groups of organizations (e.g., industries), constitutes a complex social process which is still poorly understood. A notable and timely example includes the tobacco industry with its modern vaping branch. The history of the tobacco industry is rife with clashes between the industry’s organizations, science and scientific evidence, regulators, social movement organizations, activists, etc. This legal yet increasingly questioned industry (illegitimate?) continues to pose challenges to society. The large tobacco corporations continue to look for strategies and ways to maintain their business in the face of mounting questions and challenges. How do the various parties interact and affect one another? In which arenas do they operate, and what strategies/tactics are used by the various parties to promote their own interests? How and why have the relatively young e-cigarettes organizations operate similarly/differently as compared to the TCs? How do the recent health implications of vaping affect them? How do regulators (governments), health organizations, societies react to and organize to deal with ‘traditional’ and e-cigarettes? These question illustrate pending and crucial issues related to a multi-billion traditional yet innovative industry, which often operates in (questionable) varied ways to pursue its interest and faces other organizational and societal actors that oppose it. Naturally a student interested in contestation/contested industries is not bound to studying specifically the tobacco industry. 

Creativity and the creative sector – creativity is fundamental to change. Whether applied to technology, science, art, or other domains, without creativity societies and economies advancement would likely be impeded. Creativity has been studied in different disciplines (e.g., psychology, social-psychology, sociology). Interest here is in what the role of organizations is in advancing/halting creativity, and how creativity ‘operates’ in organizations. Building on the insights/knowledge accumulated in past research, questions pertaining to the creative processes within and across organizations is central to understanding how novel ideas, innovations, or creative products, transpire. While the particular interest is in the creative sector, it should be clear that the study of creativity is NOT limited to, nor does creativity characterize only the creative (sometimes referred to as cultural) sector. Creative sector organizations defined as organizations that trade meanings and carry greater symbolic than utilitarian value however, are particularly interesting because of their increasing social and economic centrality and because they may provide extreme exemplars and as such provide valuable insights for organizations more generally. How do creative processes within organizations occur and managed? How do individuals, teams, and organizations maintain creativity overtime and how do creativity, identity, and authenticity at various levels of analysis interact and reinforce (undermine) the creative process and its outcomes?

Organizations and ideology – While it may not be obvious that ideology is relevant to organizations, scholars agree that organizations are infused with values and ideology. That is so even though it is not always apparent or visible. Ideology is a construct that has long attracted the attention of scholars from diverse disciplines, yet debates concerning its definition still abound. A working definition used in (some) organization research portrays ideology as a set of beliefs about how the social world operates, including ideas about what outcomes are desirable and how they can best be achieved. As such, ideology provides a simple theory of action; actors will pursue the values their ideology values, and consequently ideologies provide a set of first order organizing principles. Ideologies held by the designers of organizations are the primary source of the goals they have for their organizations and suggest which organizational configurations will be effective in attaining those goals; ideology provides a blueprint for organizations. Furthermore, ideology as a construct provides a compelling micro-macro link, individuals subscribe to an ideology as do collectives; organizations constitute critical mechanisms for the diffusion of ideologies. Together the above provide compelling reasons to engage in the study of organizations and ideology. Some recent work has focused on the US context and on the upper echelons of the organization (CEO, BoDs), asking various questions about how their ideology affect particular decisions and practices. Other work examined the role ideological (mis)alignment plays in how news organizations report about fraud committed by corporations. Many questions remain to be answered in different contexts, types of organizations, and at different levels of analysis with an overarching question – how do ideologies construct social agency and what are the consequences of this social agency? Answering these questions relate to both persistence and change. Ideological beliefs are powerful as an engine driving change and potent as justifying persistence. 

Time, temporality, and history in the study of organizations – Some scholars have referred to a recent surge in studies focusing on organizations’ history and how it affects organizations’ present and future as the ‘historical turn in organization studies’. This stream of work is also characterized by employing some methodologies from history scholarship. Similarly attention to time and temporality in organizations while not entirely new, has grown and attracts much scholarly interest. History and time can be conceived of as resources, being particularly interesting because of their ephemerality, and inability to store, or possess. Time is omnipresent in all social domains and activities, and gives rise to temporal bracketing (past, present, future). The past affects the present and the future, while also being socially constructed in light of both. Organizations’ most central processes such as decision making, or strategy formulation, have to take time (passage, orientation) into account. Organizations are increasingly invoking their history as evidence of their credibility, legitimacy, authenticity (see the ‘history’ or ‘about’ tab in many organizations’ web-pages), etc. A compelling aspect of the focus on time and history in organization is their relation to socio-materiality. Namely how materials are used by/in organizations to convey their history or time related messages, often linking them to organizational identity aimed at both internal as well as external audiences. Various contexts (e.g., types of organizations, national/cultural settings) give rise to fascinating questions in this realm. Similarly various methodological approaches in combination can enrich our understanding of the role time and history play in organizations’ persistence and change. Both after all allude to time and history, and are anchored in time.


By its nature, the study of organizations is interdisciplinary which is reflected both in the theoretical domains/disciplines that inform it as well as the required methodologies. Consequently, the research methodology is determined by the research question(s) and theoretical perspective(s) as well as the research context. Thus, a broad range of methodologies can and should be considered/chosen. Quantitative and qualitative methods as well as a big data approaches, or visual analyses represent some options to analyze data obtained from varied sources such archival data, observations, interviews, experiments, web scraping, etc. In other words, the methods selected and mastered would be an integral part of the PhD projects rather than dictated by this or that particular expertise of the supervisor(s). It is expected that a PhD student can master, as needed, varied methodologies, building on the experience and guidance of the supervisor(s), and the resources available within RSM/Erasmus university and beyond.

Required Profile

The candidate should be first and foremost curious about the (social) world around her/him. Curiosity and the drive to answer questions are the basic requirements of a good researcher. In terms of prior training, it is not mandatory that it is in a particular (Management) field, while it is easier to hit the ground running if one has a background in social/behavioral sciences and/or a management field, so that is preferred. It is important to have good command of English (comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing) as it is the language of scientific inquiry. Analytical skills, intrinsic motivation, an open-mind, and strong interest in the study of organizations, are expected of candidates for this OT/macro-OB position.

Expected output

The PhD project is funded for up to five years and should yield at least three (top) journal publications (erim journals list). Targeted outlets include journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Journal of Management, etc. Results/papers will also be presented at international conferences, such as the annual meetings of the Academy of Management (AoM), the European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), and smaller specialized conferences (e.g., New Institutional Workshop, Creative Industries Conference). Furthermore, careful planning should also yield data for work beyond the dissertation papers such that upon completing the PhD, subsequent projects can be relatively quickly embarked on.


The relevant supervisors have a strong international network of collaborators and colleagues that can be called upon to host research visits of PhD students, assist with particular needs (e.g., friendly reviewer), and serve as external committee members. Furthermore, there are regular seminar speakers and research visits by renowned international faculty, providing further opportunities to get acquainted with, and establish international collaborations. Generally speaking a strong ethos of cooperating towards achieving high-quality PhD training exists within the department, between relevant faculty across RSM departments as well as with the aforementioned broad professional network. Examples of institutions PhD students supervised by the relevant faculty recently visited include MIT, Michigan State University and WU. Besides these, recent PhD students supervised by other department members include visiting at Duke University, University of Maryland, Northwestern University, Stanford University, and University of Toronto.

Societal relevance

Given organizations’ pivotal societal and economic role as described above, scientifically sound research, research that contributes to resolving (theoretical) problems and puzzles, and the deep contextual knowledge that is developed during a PhD project, will also have its particular societal relevance. The Rotterdam School of Management supports dissemination of findings to the wider society in various ways (e.g., discovery).

Scientific relevance

The PhD projects will be predicated on sound theoretical and methodological bases and aim to contribute to theory development and advancement per the relevant perspectives taken. It would also be expected to contribute to a greater understanding of a particular context, such as a particular industry, type(s) of organizations, etc. Clearly, the specific scientific contributions the project will make are contingent on how the project is shaped by the PhD student, nonetheless since the general research domain outlined above is central to current OT research, similarly the PhD project is expected to significantly inform the relevant theories/concepts.

Literature references

Just to illustrate here are some readings related to the different research foci above -

Askin, N., & Mauskapf, M. (2017). What makes popular culture popular? Product features and optimal differentiation in music. American Sociological Review82(5), 910-944.

Bitektine, A. (2011). Toward a theory of social judgments of organizations: The case of legitimacy, reputation, and status. Academy of Management Review36(1), 151-179.

Cattani, G., & Ferriani, S. (2008). A core/periphery perspective on individual creative performance: Social networks and cinematic achievements in the Hollywood film industry. Organization Science19(6), 824-844.

Desai, V. M. (2011). Mass media and massive failures: Determining organizational efforts to defend field legitimacy following crises. Academy of Management Journal54(2), 263-278.

Greve, H. R., Palmer, D., & Pozner, J. E. (2010). Organizations gone wild: The causes, processes, and consequences of organizational misconduct. The Academy of Management Annals4(1), 53-107.

Hatch, M. J., & Schultz, M. (2017). Toward a theory of using history authentically: Historicizing in the Carlsberg Group. Administrative Science Quarterly62(4), 657-697.

Jones, C., Maoret, M., Massa, F. G., & Svejenova, S. (2012). Rebels with a cause: Formation, contestation, and expansion of the de novo category “modern architecture,” 1870–1975. Organization Science23(6), 1523-1545.

Khaire, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. (2010). Changing landscapes: The construction of meaning and value in a new market category—Modern Indian art. Academy of Management Journal53(6), 1281-1304.

Sagiv, T., Simons, T., & Drori, I. (2019). The construction of authenticity in the creative process: Lessons from choreographers of contemporary dance. Organization Science.

Schultz, M., & Hernes, T. (2013). A temporal perspective on organizational identity. Organization Science24(1), 1-21.

Simons, T., & Ingram, P. (2003). Enemies of the state: The interdependence of institutional forms and the ecology of the kibbutz, 1910–1997. Administrative Science Quarterly48(4), 592-621.

Simons, T., & Ingram, P. (2004). An ecology of ideology: Theory and evidence from four populations. Industrial and Corporate Change13(1), 33-59.

Simons, T., & Roberts, P. W. (2008). Local and non-local pre-founding experience and new organizational form penetration: The case of the Israeli wine industry. Administrative Science Quarterly53(2), 235-265.

Simons, T., Vermeulen, P. A., & Knoben, J. (2016). There’s no beer without a smoke: community cohesion and neighboring communities’ effects on organizational resistance to antismoking regulations in the Dutch hospitality industry. Academy of Management Journal59(2), 545-578.

Suddaby, R., & Greenwood, R. (2005). Rhetorical strategies of legitimacy. Administrative Science Quarterly50(1), 35-67.

Yenkey, C. B. (2018). Fraud and market participation: Social relations as a moderator of organizational misconduct. Administrative Science Quarterly63(1), 43-84.

Zuckerman, E. W. (1999). The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount. American Journal of Sociology104(5), 1398-1438.