Portrait image for Barbara S. Lawrence

Barbara S. Lawrence

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Management and Organizations
“I study organizations to make them better places to work.”
Areas of Expertise:
  • Careers
  • Critical Thinking
  • Organizational Demography
  • Organizational Reference Groups
  • Social Networks
  • Social Norms


Barbara Lawrence joined the UCLA Anderson faculty in 1983. The second woman promoted to full professor at Anderson, Lawrence studies organizational reference groups, the evolution of organizational norms, internal labor markets and their influence on employees’ career expectations and implicit work contracts, and the effect of population age change on occupations.

A career-switcher herself, Lawrence has taught MBAs at the crossroads of their professional advancement. Indeed, her field didn’t exist as such when she was starting out, but jobs she held in her student days and early career gave her fly-on-the-wall opportunities to study human behavior and organizational dynamics. She began to observe how, when and where decisions were being made. She was inspired to ask, How do you put together an organization that helps people do their best?

Her earliest research concerned the “myth of the midlife crisis” and led her to study what happened to people at different ages over the course of their working lives. What is acceptable to do at certain ages? she wondered, and found, in part, that “employees’ shared beliefs about age norms and distributions inform how they value each other, and themselves. Norms evolve and define who is ahead of schedule, who is on schedule and who is behind. It’s an HR problem we typically think of as being the result of age. I found that people were quite different from each other at the same age. The norms where they worked were different.”

Looking at individuals in social contexts is crucial in creating diverse and equitable workplaces. “People don’t generally recognize that, even when they work in the same organization, individuals’ broad reference groups differ,” says Lawrence. “Scholars tend only to infer, not identify, the people an individual is aware of at work. This surmise creates no problem in groups or small organizations where everyone knows everyone else. However, it becomes troublesome in large organizations where the set of people one individual discerns may vary considerably from that of another.”

Lawrence’s latest research asserts that, although our tendency to associate with similar others may fundamentally underlie human relationships, the academic literature on this subject, which is called “homophily,” neglects the meaning people attribute to and derive from those positive ties. Lawrence finds that researchers often use measures in current studies that imply but do not capture how individuals interpret and attach importance to their associations or similarities. “Kurt Lewin’s famous remark that there is nothing so practical as a good theory is really recognition that good explanations work precisely because of their close connection to empirical observation,” she says.

Lawrence’s research has been published widely in peer-reviewed journals and funded by the National Institutes of Health. A former concert flutist, she believes she may be the only business school professor who has taught the history of jazz.



Ph.D. Management, 1983, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management

M.A. College Student Personnel, 1973, University of Maryland

B.M. Performance, 1972, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music

Published Papers

Ulrich, L., Huettermann, H., Heike, B., & Lawrence, B. S. (2021). Organizational demographic faultlines: Their impact on collective organizational identification, firm performance, and firm innovation. Journal of Management Studies. Accepted for publication, July 2021.

Lawrence, B. S., & Shah, N. P. (2020). Homophily: Measures and meaning. Academy of Management Annals, 14(2), 513-597.

Kannan-Narasimhan, R., & Lawrence, B. S. (2018). How innovators reframe resources in the strategy-making process to gain innovation adoption. Strategic Management Journal, 39(1), 720-758.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld, J., & Stakeholder Alignment Collaboration. (2017). Five ways consortia can catalyse open science. Nature, 543(7647), 615-617. doi:10.1038/543615a.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld, J., & Stakeholder Alignment Collaboration. (2016). Build it, but will they come? A geoscience cyberinfrastructure baseline analysis. Data Science Journal, 15(8), 1-14.

Lawrence, B. S., Hall, D. T., & Arthur, M. B. (2015). Sustainable careers: Then and now. In A. De Vos & B. Van der Heijden (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers (pp. 432-449). U.K. and Northampton, MA USA: Edward Elgar.

Lawrence, B. S., & Kim, N. (2014). Age. In C. Cooper (Ed.), Wiley Encyclopedia of Management (3 ed.): Wiley.

Kannan-Narasimhan, R., & Lawrence, B. S. (2013). Behavioral integrity: How leader referents and trust matter to workplace outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(2), 165-178.

Bolukbasi, B., & Stakeholder Alignment Collaboration. (2013). Open data: Crediting a culture of cooperation. Science, 342, 1041-1042.

Lawrence, B. S., & Zyphur, M. J. (2011). Identifying organizational faultlines with latent class cluster analysis. Organizational Research Methods, 14(1), 32-57. doi:10.1177/1094428110376838.

Lawrence, B. S. (2011). Careers, social context and interdisciplinary thinking. Human Relations, 64(1), 58-84.

Lawrence, B. S. (2011). Who is they? Inquiries into how individuals construe social context. Human Relations, 64(6), 749-773.

Gibson, D. E., & Lawrence, B. S. (2010). Women's and men's career referents: How gender composition and comparison level shape career expectations. Organization Science, 21(6), 1159-1175.

Lawrence, B. S., & Tolbert, P. S. (2007). Organizational demography and careers: Structure, norms and outcomes. In M. Peiperl & H. Gunz (Eds.), Handbook of Career Studies (pp. 399-421). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Lawrence, B. S. (2006). Organizational reference groups: A missing perspective on social context. Organization Science, 17(1), 80-100.

Bikhchandani, S., Lawrence, B. S., Longstaff, F., & Scott, C. (2006). Report of the Gender Equity Committee: The Anderson School at UCLA.

Lawrence, B. S. (2005). Career theory, Career development, and Career anchor. In N. Nicholson, P. G. Audia, & M. M. Pillutla (Eds.), Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Organizational Behavior (2 ed., pp. 30-35). Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell.

Lawrence, B. S. (2004). Levels of analysis and the qualitative study of quantitative data. Research in Multi-Level Issues, 3, 231-250.

Lawrence, B. S. (2004). How old you are may depend on where you work. In S. Chowdhury (Ed.), Next Generation Business Handbook(pp. 986-1006). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Cardona, P., Lawrence, B. S., & Bentler, P. (2004). The influence of social and work exchange relationships on Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Group and Organization Management, 29(2), 219-247.

Goodman, P. S., Lawrence, B. S., Ancona, D. J., & Tushman, M. J. (2001). Special Topic Forum on Time and Organizational Research. Academy of Management Review, 26, 507-511.

Ancona, D. G., Goodman, P. S., Lawrence, B. S., & Tushman, M. L. (2001). Time: A new research lens. Academy of Management Review, 26, 645-663.

Lawrence, B. S. (1997). The black box of organizational demography. Organization Science, 8, 1-22.

Lawrence, B. S. (1996). Organizational age norms: Why is it so difficult to know one when you see one? The Gerontologist, 36, 209-220.

Lawrence, B. S. (1996). Interest and indifference: The role of age in the organizational sciences. Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management, 14, 1-59.

Lawrence, B. S. (1995). Career, Career theory, Career development, Life stage and Career anchor. In N. Nicholson (Ed.), Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Organizational Behavior (1 ed., pp. 44-45, 47-48, 51-53, 296-297). Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell Press.

Lawrence, B. S. (1990). At the crossroads: A multiple-level explanation of individual attainment. Organization Science, 1, 65-86.

Zenger, T. R., & Lawrence, B. S. (1989). Organizational demography: The differential effects of age and tenure distributions on technical communication. Academy of Management Journal, 32, 353-376.

Barney, J. B., & Lawrence, B. S. (1989). Pin stripes, power ties, and personal relationships: The economics of career strategy. In M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall, & B. S. Lawrence (Eds.), Handbook of Career Theory (pp. 417-436). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Arthur, M. B., Hall, D. T., & Lawrence, B. S. (1989). Generating new directions in career theory:  The case for a transdisciplinary approach. In M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall, & B. S. Lawrence (Eds.), Handbook of Career Theory (pp. 7-25). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Arthur, M. B., Hall, D. T., & Lawrence, B. S. (Eds.). (1989). Handbook of Career Theory. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.  Still available from Cambridge University Press.

Lawrence, B. S. (1988). New wrinkles in the theory of age: Demography, norms, and performance ratings. Academy of Management Journal, 31, 309-337.

Lawrence, B. S. (1987). An organizational theory of age effects. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 5, 35-71.

Lawrence, B. S. (1984). Historical perspective: Using the past to study the present. Academy of Management Review, 9, 307-312.

Lawrence, B. S. (1984). Age grading: The implicit organizational timetable. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 5(1), 23-35.

Arthur, M. B., & Lawrence, B. S. (1984). Perspectives on environment and career. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 5(1), 1-8.

Lawrence, B. S. (1980). The myth of the midlife crisis. Sloan Management Review, 21(3), 35-49.

Working Papers - Other Miscellaneous

Lawrence, B.S., & Zyphur, M. (2009). Neighborhoods: a tacit social structure connecting individuals and organizations. UCLA Los Angeles.

Cardona, P., Lawrence, B. S., & Espejo, A. (2003). Outcome-based theory of work motivation. IESE.


Everett Cherrington Hughes Award for Career Scholarship, 2009

Best Paper Award of the First International Conference of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management with Co-Authors in Spain and U.S., 1999

Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior Award from the Academy of Management, 1998

Citation of Excellence from Anbar Electronic Intelligence, UK, 1998

Best Symposium Award for Opening the Black Box: Uncovering Processes that Connect Demographic Variables to Outcomes Important for Organizational Research, Academy of Management, Boston, 1997

Doctoral Student Appreciation Award, UCLA Anderson, 1994

UCLA Career Development Pre-Tenure Award, 1987 – 1988