October 18, 2004

LOS ANGELES — UCLA Anderson School of Management is pleased to welcome Maia Young as assistant professor on the faculty of human resources and organizational behavior.

Prof. Young, who received her Ph.D. in organizational behavior and a B.A.S. in psychology (with honors) from Stanford University, focuses her research on the ways in which people make explanations about everyday events and how these explanations affect their behavior in organizations.  Her work examines cross-cultural differences in people’s causal theories – whether they see individuals, groups, or even luck and fate as playing a role in shaping life events – and how these theories can influence organizational decision-making.

Her dissertation entitled, “Magic at Work: Magical Judgments of Colleagues and Leaders in Work Organizations,” investigates the ways in which people describe others' successes.  Prof. Young found that although people often attribute success to more observable and measurable characteristics, such as hard work or a particular skill,  “at other times, people's explanations of success point to a more subtle and immeasurable force that helps people to achieve their goals – like a trader's ‘gut instinct,’ an executive's ‘vision,’ or a designer's ‘touch.’”

Prof. Young argues, “this latter type of attribution follows a logic that is closer to myths and religion than to science (hence the term ‘magical explanations’) and we can better understand perceptions of charismatic leadership by knowing about their psychological effects.  People in my studies were more eager to promote others whose successes were described this way, and they were more drawn toward managers who succeeded by magical versus more mundane means.”

In 2003, Prof. Young was recognized as a Carolyn Dexter Award Nominee by the Academy of Management, which honors papers that offer new insights, are rich in observation and employ creative methodologies.  The nominated paper she co-authored, titled, “Controlled by Higher Powers: Fatalistic Thoughts and Practices in Judeo-Christian and Hindu Cultures,” outlines the ways in which conceptions of fate differ between Judeo-Christian and Hindu cultures.

The paper is based on a line of research in which she found that “both cultures are fatalistic in different ways, and perhaps most applicably to organizations, these beliefs about fate and personal control affect our risk-mitigating strategies at home and at work,” according to Prof. Young.  She notes that one of the most interesting findings is that, “people from our Judeo-Christian sample were more likely to over-purchase insurance and to believe in ‘tempting fate’ than their Hindu counterparts.”

At UCLA Anderson, Prof. Young is eager to share her knowledge of leadership, the fundamentals of organizational behavior, and managing groups and teams.  Her research interests include perceptions of charismatic leadership, theories of control and accompanying strategies to manage risk, decision-making and judgment, and hierarchies in the working relationships.

Another paper Prof. Young co-authored entitled, “Intuitive Logics for Blaming Managers for Organizational Harms: How Japanese Differ from Americans,” examined the process of blaming executives, comparing differences between Japan and the United States.  Through this study, she examined the psychological processes by which the Japanese blame an executive who had no fundamental role in causing an organizational harm, but who is seen as blameful because of being the figurehead for the organization. 

She notes that in one example of this psychological “blame” process in Japan, “the Japanese Prime Minister stepped down several years ago when the national blood supply was found to be tainted with HIV positive blood.  It didn't matter to the public that he was not Prime Minister when the harm happened (when the blood supply was tainted).  Because he was in the leadership position at the time the harm was revealed, he was seen as blameful by virtue of representing the organization.  Ultimately, he was expected to accept responsibility for what happened and step down.”

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