Professor Samir Nurmohamed’s research focuses on how people respond to adversity at work across topics such as workplace motivation and behavioral ethics.
For example, most existing research shows that others’ low expectations are detrimental to the performance of employees and groups within organizations, but he is interested in understanding why and when individuals can derive motivation and even achieve success when others question their capacity to succeed or treat them poorly. He has conducted his research using multiple methods in contexts such as leaders and employees in Fortune 500 corporations, job seekers at reemployment centers, and entrepreneurs seeking to bring new culturally contentious initiatives to the marketplace. His work has been published and featured at outlets such as the Academy of Management Journal and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and practitioner outlets such as Harvard Business Review and the New York Times.
Professor Nurmohamed (or as he is known to his students, “Prof Nurmo”) teaches the MBA core course on the Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership (MGMT 610), as well as an elective on Power and Politics in Organizations (MGMT 272/772) in the undergraduate, MBA, and executive education programs. At Wharton, he has received several teaching awards, including the Teaching Excellence Award, Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Division Award, and MBA Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award. You can view his commencement address to the graduating class in 2015 below.
He completed his Ph.D. in Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan and earned his B.A. in Economics and Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. For fun, he enjoys karaoke-ing to Drake and Kanye, cheering for Toronto and Michigan sports, traveling to new countries, and eating at both fancy and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Philly (i.e., the best pound-for-pound food city in America) with his wife, Salimah, and their toddler (who is becoming a little foodie).
For more information about him, please visit www.profnurmo.com.
Samir Nurmohamed, Timothy Kundro, Chris Myers (2021), Against the odds: Underdog versus favorite narratives to offset prior experiences of discrimination, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
Abstract: Although considerable theory and research indicates that prior experiences of discrimination hinder individuals, it remains unclear what individuals can do to offset these repercussions in the context of their work and career. We introduce two distinct types of self-narratives—underdog and favorite—and test whether these types of personal stories shape the effects of prior experiences of discrimination on performance efficacy, which in turn impact performance. Across two studies, we theorize and find that underdog narratives are more effective than favorite narratives at moderating the effects of prior experiences of discrimination on performance through performance efficacy. Our results present new insights for theory and research on expectations, self-narratives, and resilience in the face of discrimination and adversity.
Adam Cobb, JR Keller, Samir Nurmohamed (2021), How do I compare? The effect of work-unit demographics on reactions to pay inequality, ILR Review.
Abstract: Prior research suggests that individuals react negatively when they perceive they are underpaid. Moreover, individuals frequently select pay referents who share their race and gender, suggesting that demographic similarity affects one’s knowledge of pay differences. Leveraging these insights, we examine whether the gender and racial composition of a work unit shapes individuals’ reactions to pay deprivation. Using field data from a large healthcare organization, we find that pay deprivation resulting from workers receiving less pay than their same-sex and same-race coworkers prompts a significantly stronger response than does pay deprivation arising from workers receiving less pay than their demographically dissimilar colleagues. A supplemental experiment reveals that this relationship likely results from individuals’ propensity to select same-category others as pay referents, shaping workers’ information about their colleagues’ pay. Our findings underscore the need to theoretically and empirically account for how demographically-driven social comparison processes affect reactions to pay inequality.
Samir Nurmohamed (2020), The Underdog Effect: When Low Expectations Increase Performance, Academy of Management Journal.
Abstract: Existing theory and research has documented the benefits of facing high expectations and the perils of encountering low expectations. This paper examines the performance effects of underdog expectations, defined as individuals’ perceptions that others view them as unlikely to succeed. Integrating theory and research on self-enhancement with psychological reactance, I predict that underdog expectations have the potential to boost performance through the desire to prove others wrong when others’ credibility is in question. Studies 1 and 2 provide support for the positive relationship between underdog expectations and performance. Study 3 reveals support for the positive effect of underdog expectations on performance through the desire to prove others wrong. Study 4 demonstrates that these effects depend on the perceived credibility of observers: when observers’ expectations are seen as more credible, underdog expectations undermine performance (i.e., consistent with the Golem effect and self-fulfilling prophecy), but when observers’ expectations are viewed as less credible, underdog expectations boost performance (i.e., the underdog effect). My theory and results challenge the assumption that perceiving low expectations from others is always detrimental and offer meaningful insights into why and when underdog expectations increase versus inhibit performance.
Timothy Kundro and Samir Nurmohamed (2020), Understanding When and Why Cover-Ups are Punished Less Severely, Academy of Management Journal .
Abstract: Cover-ups of unethical actions are undesirable and often costly, but existing theory is unclear on when and why some cover-ups are punished less severely by in-group third parties compared to out-group third parties. Drawing on theories of attribution and social identity, we theorize that the punishment of cover-ups by in- and out-group third parties depends on the type of cover-up: whether individuals conceal their own unethical transgressions (personal cover-ups) or the unethical transgressions of another individual (relational cover-ups). By highlighting this distinction, we hypothesize and find across three studies that in-group third parties punish relational—but not personal cover-ups—less severely than out-group third parties. Moreover, we theorize and find support for the mediating role of perceptions of group loyalty. Our theory and results reveal the ways in which different forms of cover-ups can escape severe punishment and offer important theoretical contributions for research on unethical behavior, social identity, and loyalty.
Jeremy Yip, Maurice Schweitzer, Samir Nurmohamed (2018), Trash-Talking: Competitive Incivility Motivates Rivalry, Performance, and Unethical Behavior, Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes.
David M. Mayer, Samir Nurmohamed, Linda Klebe Trevino, Debra Shapiro, Marshall Schminke (2013), Encouraging employees to report unethical conduct internally: It takes a village, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
Abstract: Via three studies of varying methodologies designed to complement and build upon each other, we examine how supervisory ethical leadership is associated with employees’ reporting unethical conduct within the organization (i.e., internal whistle-blowing). We also examine whether the positive effect of supervisory ethical leadership is enhanced by another important social influence: coworkers’ ethical behavior. As predicted, we found that employees’ internal whistle-blowing depends on an ethical tone being set by complementary social influence sources at multiple organizational levels (both supervisory and coworker levels), leading us to conclude that ‘‘it takes a village’’ to support internal whistleblowing. Also, this interactive effect was found to be mediated by a fear of retaliation in two studies but not by perceptions of futility. We conclude by identifying theoretical and practical implications of our research.
Adam Grant, Samir Nurmohamed, Susan J. Ashford, Kathryn Dekas (2011), The performance implications of ambivalent initiative: The interplay of autonomous and controlled motivations, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116, pp. 241-251.
Abstract: Although initiative is thought to contribute to higher performance, researchers have called for a more comprehensive understanding of the contingencies for this relationship. Building on self-determination theory, we propose that initiative is more likely to predict performance when individuals experience autonomous and not controlled motivation. Across two studies, we find support for a hypothesized three-way interaction between initiative, autonomous motivation, and controlled motivation in predicting individual performance. In Study 1, the personal initiative reported by job applicants was most positively related to the number of job offers that they received several months later when they experienced high autonomous motivation and low controlled motivation. In Study 2, the objective initiative taken by call center employees was most positively related to the revenue that they generated in subsequent months when they reported high autonomous motivation and low controlled motivation. We discuss theoretical implications for motivation, initiative, proactivity, and performance.
"If you want to test a (person's) character, give (him/her) power." These famous words articulate one of the many tensions of exercising power. Regardless of whether you have an appetite for power or disdain it, power and politics are likely to play an important role in your career. The purpose of this course is to introduce you to concepts that are useful for understanding, analyzing, and developing your political skill. But beyond discovering ways to extend your own power in organizations, we will also uncover lessons about ways in which power and politics can blind you, and how to navigate situations in which you are up against powerful people. Using a range of scholarly articles, cases, exercises, assessments and simulations, we will extract a variety of lessons relevant to your role in organizations. Topics include diagnosing power in organizations, building coalitions, change management, understanding networks, coping with intolerable bosses and incivility, and downsizing. Students will be expected to engage in field research for their coursework and final paper, and the course requires that students submit assignments for almost every class session. Organizations are inherently political arenas that require social astuteness, and an understanding of the "rules of the game." This course is designed for students aiming to develop their leadership, general management and career skills through a better understanding of power and politics, and relates to other courses on these topics in the Management department.
MGMT 610 is the first core course in the MBA Program and it cannot be waived. The first week of the fall term (in August) is dedicated to this formative and foundational experience. This course focuses on developing students' knowledge and skill set for teamwork and leadership. It is meant to be an intense immersion experience that draws strongly on the pedagogy of the Wharton Teamwork and Leadership Simulation, a team-based, highly interactive simulation that was custom-designed specifically to allow students to experience the core concepts they learn in this class. The three goals of this course are for students to learn: 1. Leadership behaviors: how to enact the skills that contribute to a team's effective performance. 2. Team dynamics: how to be an effective team member, as well as how to best design work teams; 3. Organizational awareness: understanding organizational culture. Format: A custom-designed Wharton-only simulation is paired with course sessions to deliver a unique learning experience. Classes will include experiental learning combined with debriefings, lectures, readings, class discussion and personal and group performance feedback. This course reflects the realities that informal leadership occurs in teams on an ongoing basis, that being a good team player is a part of leadership, and that many of one's early experiences with leadership will occur while working on teams. Because of the team-based nature of this course, and time intensive nature of this experience, attendance is mandatory for ALL five sessions of this class. NOTE: Credit-bearing, core coursework begins with the MGMT610: Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership course.
"If you want to test a (person's) character, give (him/her) power." These famous words articulate one of the many tensions of exercising power. Regardless of whether you have an appetite for power or disdain it, power and politics are likely to play an important role in your career. The purpose of this course is to introduce you to concepts that are useful for understanding, analyzing, and developing your political skill. But beyond discovering ways to extend your own power in organizations, we will also uncover lessons about ways in which power and politics can blind you, and how to navigate situations in which you are up against powerful people. Using a range of scholarly articles, cases, exercises, assessments and simulations, we will extract a variety of lessons relevant to your role in organizations. Topics include diagnosing power in organizations, building coalitions, change management, understanding networks, coping with intolerable bosses and incivility, and downsizing. Students will be expected to engage in field research for their coursework and final paper, and the course requires that students submit assignments for almost every class session. Thematically, this course highlights how your relationships with organizational stakeholders and an understanding of the organizational context are crucial to successfully navigating the political terrain of oganizations. Organizations are inherently political arenas that require social astuteness, and an understanding of the "rules of the game." This course is designed for students aiming to develop their leadership, general management and career skills through a better understanding of power and politics, and relates to other courses on these topics in the Management department.
Behold the “underdog effect”: Workers sometimes perform better when they think others expect them to fail.
How does a worker know what warrants a whistleblower response -- and how can organizations encourage those who want to report a misdeed to come forward?Knowledge @ Wharton - 11/5/2019
Assistant Professor of Management Samir Nurmohamed talks about the conversation that led him to become a business professor and how he brings both research and rap into the classroom. …Wharton Stories - 04/16/2018