Felice B. Klein, Kevin McSweeney, Cynthia E. Devers, Gerry McNamara, and Spenser Blosser
Scholars have devoted significant attention to understanding the determinants and consequences of executive compensation. Yet, one form of compensation, executive severance agreements, has flown under the radar. Severance agreements specify the expected payments and benefits promised executives, upon voluntary or involuntary termination. Although these agreements are popular among executives, critics continually question their worth. Yet severance agreements potentially offer three important (but less readily recognized) strategic benefits. First, severance agreements are viewed as a means of mitigating the potential risks associated with job changes; thus, they can serve as a recruitment tool to attract top executive talent. Second, because severance agreements guarantee executives previously specified compensation in the event of termination, they can help limit the downside risk naturally risk-averse executives face, facilitating executive-shareholder interest alignment. Third, severance agreements can aid in firm exit, as executives and directors are likely to be more open to termination, in the presence of adequate protection against the downside.
Severance agreements can contain provisions for ten possible termination events. Three events refer to change in control (CIC), which occurs under a change in ownership. These are (1) CIC without termination, (2) CIC with termination without cause, and (3) CIC with termination for cause. Cause is generally defined by events such as felony, fraud, embezzlement, neglect of duties, or violation of noncompete provisions. Additional events include (4) voluntary retirement, (5) resignation without good reason, (6) voluntary termination for good reason, (7) involuntary termination without cause, (8) involuntary termination with cause, (9) death, and (10) disability. Voluntary retirement and resignation without good reason occurs when CEOs either retire or leave under their own volition, and voluntary termination with good reason occurs in response to changes in employment terms (e.g., relocation of headquarters). Involuntary termination refers to termination due to any reason not listed above and is often triggered by unsatisfactory performance.
Although some prior work has addressed the antecedents, consequences, and moderators of severance, the findings from this literature remain unclear, as many of the results are mixed. Future severance scholars have the opportunity to further clarify these relationships by addressing how severance agreements can help firms attract, align the interests of, and facilitate the exit of executives.
Clara Kulich and Michelle K. Ryan
A wealth of research has previously shown that gender stereotypes and discrimination keep women from climbing the corporate ladder. However, women who do break through the “glass ceiling” are likely to face new barriers. Research on the glass cliff phenomenon shows that, when women reach positions of power, they tend to do so in circumstances of crisis and instability. A number of archival, experimental, and qualitative studies have demonstrated that women are more likely to rise in the professional hierarchy in difficult, and for these women, potentially harmful, situations. For example, compared to their male peers, women are seen as more desirable for managerial or political leadership positions in times of instability and crises, or following scandals. Such appointments expose women to a higher risk of failure, criticism, and psychological distress, thus a danger of falling off an “invisible” cliff.
Jawad Syed and Memoona Tariq
Diversity management refers to organizational policies and practices aimed at recruiting, retaining, and managing employees of diverse backgrounds and identities, while creating a culture in which everybody is equally enabled to perform and achieve organizational and personal objectives. In a globalized world, there is a need for contextual and transnational approaches to utilize the benefits that global diversity may bring as well as the challenges that organizations may face in managing a diverse workforce. In particular, it is important to take into account how diversity is theorized and managed in non-Western contexts, for example in BRICS countries (i.e., Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and Muslim-majority countries. The literature confirms the need for organizational efforts to be focused on engaging with and managing a heterogeneous workplace in ways that not only yield sustainable competitive advantage but also are contextually and socially responsible. Organizations today are expected to take positive action, beyond legal compliance, to ensure equal access, employment and promotion opportunities, and also to ensure that diversity programs make use of employee differences, and contribute to local as well as global communities.
Isabel Boni-Le Goff and Nicky Le Feuvre
Professions or professional occupations have been studied through a large number of empirical and theoretical lenses over the last decades: as potential substitutes for organizations and markets, as protected labor markets, and as the site of the subjective experiences and socialization processes of their members. Combining a sociological and a gender perspective, a growing number of studies have shed new light on the growth and dynamics of professional occupations since the mid-20th century. They show how the massive entry of women into the upper reaches of Western labor markets has played a major role in the expansion and reconfiguration of the professions. However, by studying the barriers to women’s access to once exclusively masculine environments, scholars tend to show that the feminization processes coexist with persistent inequalities in income, promotion opportunities, career patterns, and access to leadership positions, popularized by the metaphor of the “glass ceiling” effect.
These contradicting trends—numerical feminization and the persistence of gender inequalities—have inspired a large range of empirical research projects and conceptual innovations. This article distinguishes three ways of framing the gendered dynamics of professional and managerial occupations.
A first way of framing the issue adopts a resolutely structural perspective, presenting feminization as a process that ultimately leads to the crystallization of traditional gender inequalities, thus confronting women with the risk of deprofessionalization or dequalification. Some of these studies observe variations in the rhythms and patterns of feminization across occupations. They reveal complex processes whereby the overall increase in women’s education levels comes with the persistence of gender-differentiated choices of study and occupation. Rhythms and patterns of feminization may also differ within a given occupation, from one specialty to another and from one type of organization to another, depending on the internal hierarchy of the occupation. Very significant gaps may also be observed according to employment status: wage labor or self-employment, for example.
A second way of framing the question adopts an organizational-level perspective; showing, for example, that a “glass ceiling” systematically hampers women’s career progression in all sectors of the labor market. These studies explore the combination of direct and indirect discriminatory processes—from the persistence of “old boys’ networks” to the legitimation of certain gendered body images of professionalism—within different organizational and professional contexts. In the face of such resistance, women’s career progression is particularly slow and arduous, both due to the prevailing symbolic norms of leadership models and due to the collective strategies of closure by male professionals at the organizational level.
Finally, a third way of framing the issue adopts a more holistic perspective, with a stronger focus on the agency of women within the occupational context and on the societal implications of changes to the gender composition of the professions. These studies insist on the potential or real changes that women may bring to the professional ethos and to the occupation-specific “rules of the game” in previously male-dominated bastions. Interested in the undoing of conventional norms of masculinity and fathering as well as of femininity and mothering, this third perspective explores a potential shift to more egalitarian gender arrangements at the organizational, interpersonal, and societal levels.
Ellen Ernst Kossek and Kyung-Hee Lee
Work-family and work-life conflict are forms of inter-role conflict that occur when the energy, time, or behavioral demands of the work role conflicts with family or personal life roles. Work-family conflict is a specific form of work-life conflict. Work-family conflict is of growing importance in society as it has important consequences for work, non-work, and personal outcomes such as productivity, turnover, family well-being, health, and stress. Work-family conflict relates to critical employment, family, and personal life outcomes. These include work outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover), family outcomes (e.g., marital satisfaction and family satisfaction), and personal outcomes related to physical health (e.g., physical symptoms, eating and exercise behaviors), and psychological health (e.g., stress and depressive symptoms, life satisfaction). Many different theoretical perspectives are used to understand work-life conflict: starting with role theory, and more recently conservation of resources, job demands and resources, and life course theories. Many methodological challenges are holding back the advancement of work-family conflict research. These include (1) construct overlap between work-family conflict and work-life conflict, and work-life balance measures; (2) measurement issues related to directionality and operationalization; and (3) a lack of longitudinal and multilevel studies. Future research should include studies to (1) advance construct development on linkages between different forms of work-family and work-life conflict; (2) improve methodological modeling to better delineate work-family conflict mechanisms; (3) foster increased variation in samples; (4) develop resiliency interventions that fit specific occupational contextual demands; (5) increase integration and sophistication of theoretical approaches; and (6) update work-family studies to take into account the influence of the growing prevalence of technology that is transforming work-family relationships.