UW News

May 17, 2022

UW Foster School of Business faculty to speak May 20 on improving employee well-being

Man speaking at podium in front of audience

Faculty experts from the University of Washington Foster School of Business will share their perspectives and research in a series of short talks on May 20.Pixabay

How can businesses improve employee well-being without sacrificing profits?

That will be the topic of conversation Friday evening as faculty experts from the University of Washington Foster School of Business share their perspectives and research in a series of short talks: “Foster Insights: Creating Better Workplaces and Better Lives.”

The speakers are Abhinav Gupta, associate professor of management; Andrew Hafenbrack, assistant professor of management and organization; Ann Schlosser, professor of marketing; Ryan Fehr, associate professor of management; and Stacia Jones, the inaugural Dean’s Impact Scholar at the Foster School and vice president and global head of inclusion, diversity, equity and action at Lululemon.

“Foster Insights: Creating Better Workplaces and Better Lives” will be held 7-8:45 p.m. on Friday, May 20, at Town Hall Seattle. Tickets are $10 and are available here.

Gupta studies topics related to business, politics and society. He will speak on the growing phenomenon of employee activism. Employees are increasingly speaking out against corporate employers for what they see as irresponsible behaviors, Gupta said, often risking their careers and livelihoods.

“I will describe the macro trends that have fueled the rise of employee activism, and the factors that explain why some activists are more successful than others,” Gupta said. “The goal is to share ideas that can unlock the full potential of employee activism to enhance corporate citizenship and social welfare.”

Hafenbrack’s research centers around psychological processes that affect the workplace. He will speak on the benefits and drawbacks of meditation as a tool in the workplace, including how a small amount of meditation in specific situations can often change a person’s life for the better — but sometimes for the worse.

“You just need to know the difference between when it is helpful and when it isn’t,” Hafenbrack said. “I will also explain why celebrities like Arianna Huffington, Phil Jackson and Deepak Chopra don’t like my research on meditation.”

Schlosser’s talk will highlight how social media can influence the way consumers present themselves. Because computer-mediated communication allows speakers to remain anonymous and less aware of audience reactions, it would seem to allow people to be their true selves. But that hasn’t been the case, Schlosser said.

“In the over 25 years since social media sites were introduced, people continue to communicate information that seems acceptable and held by the majority,” said Schlosser, who studies computer-mediated communication and internet marketing. “I’ll also discuss implications for consumer well-being and the ‘spiral of silence.’”

Fehr, whose research focuses on building positive relationships at work, will discuss how a culture of gratitude is often missing from organizations, despite research that suggests gratitude can have a lasting effect on well-being, strength of relationships and success at work. His talk will examine the “gratitude gap” —  the difference in the amount of gratitude people hope for at work and what actually transpires.

“My work focuses on helping employees build high-quality connections with each other,” Fehr said. “Especially in a time of growing social division and virtual work, I argue that organizations must help employees forge high-quality relationships with each other if they are to succeed.”

Jones, who has spent more than 20 years working with corporations on domestic and international matters of DEI, will talk about navigating the corporate DEI space as well as approaches organizations can take to create healthy, inclusive and equitable workplaces for individuals and society.