Stress management

While managers experience their share of stress in the workplace, PhD candidate Amanda Hancock says that leadership well-being is an under-researched area. In her doctoral research she’s set out to build a body of work that enables us to better understand how members of an organization view leaders who experience and share stigmatizing health challenges, and how we can use that information to better shape more inclusive workplaces.

Where are you from?
Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Are you the first person in your family to go to grad school? 
No, both of my parents completed master’s degrees in their chosen areas of study (Dad, biology; Mom, social work). However, I am the first person to pursue a PhD! I feel honoured, proud and privileged to be the first in my family to pursue this level of education.

Where, and in what area, did you do your undergraduate or previous graduate work?
I did my undergraduate degree in Kingston, Ont. at Queen’s University where I received a bachelor of commerce (honours) from the School of Business. I completed my master of science in medicine, focusing on Applied Health Services Research. My master’s degree was conferred by Memorial from a program called the Atlantic Regional Training Centre (ARTC). Students and professors in the ARTC program came from Memorial University, University of New Brunswick, University of Prince Edward Island and Dalhousie University. There were three of us that started the program at Memorial in fall 2007. Our total cohort consisted of 12 students (the other nine came from the other universities). The three of us who completed the program here at Memorial are still close friends even though we are in different parts of the country!

Why did you choose to pursue a graduate or postdoctoral degree?
I think the job market is so competitive these days that equipping yourself with a doctoral degree is an investment in yourself that will pay dividends for years to come. Also, graduate school improves your ability to think critically, write clearly, and differentiate between what’s important and what’s “extra.” I have always been a curious person with an inquisitive nature, so I love the idea of lifelong learning.

Why did you choose Memorial for graduate or postdoctoral studies?
Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration has some of Canada’s leading researchers in my areas of interest including leadership, diversity and organizations. I had met Dr. Kara Arnold in a previous project so when I went to her office to talk about starting doctoral studies under her supervision, I knew it was a great fit. I am now in my third year of studies and she continues to teach me new things, open doors and offer guidance, support, and encouragement whenever I need it.

How would you describe your experience as a graduate student at Memorial?
Incredible! I was a little nervous about starting my degree after having worked for a number of years. I thought being older than other students would make things difficult, but that has not been the case. I have made great friends through my coursework and have never felt judged or discouraged by anyone thinking that I’m “too old”. 

What is your degree program and area of specialization?
PhD in management with a specialization in organizational behaviour and human resources. I am currently in my third year and plan to study leaders’ well-being as it relates to disclosures of concealable stigmas for my dissertation research.

Why did you choose this area of study?
I was interested in learning more about employee well-being from a research and academic perspective, so I could apply this knowledge when I re-enter the workforce.

What is your research/thesis about?
I am currently pursuing research in things I am passionate about, such as leadership, inclusion, and well-being of diverse populations within an organizational setting. I believe a diverse workforce is better in the long run. Even though diversity can be a source of conflict at times, the end result is better when minority opinions are respected, and everyone’s voice is heard.

What is the goal of your research?
To understand if organizational leaders (CEOs and managers) who share personal information in a professional setting are judged more harshly than employees and to understand the psychological processes underlying these judgments.

Why did you choose this research question/topic?
As managers continue to experience stress and are encouraged to pursue authentic leadership styles, there is a possibility that leader disclosures will become the norm in organizations in the future. In this way, I believe my research topic is highly relevant to workplaces of tomorrow.

How do you work with your supervisor? Does your work involve other students?
Dr. Arnold is a big believer in collaboration, which is a good fit with my preferred learning style and personality because I do best when working with others. She has provided me with opportunities to learn from other students and leading scholars across Canada and in the United States who are pursuing similar subject areas. She expects a lot of her students, but she gives a lot too. We have a similar approach to work and share views about general life philosophy, so it works out very well from my perspective. I think she would say the same.

What are the implications of your research project for the province, the country and the world?
Leader well-being is an under-researched area. Hopefully, my research will help us learn more about how others in the organization view leaders who experience and share stigmatizing health challenges.

Any recent awards/honours?
I was first author on a paper that was nominated for Best Paper at the annual Academy of Management meeting in Chicago, Ill. in August 2018. Only 10 per cent of submissions get this honour and this is the most prestigious conference in our field. I was delighted to have an abridged version of this paper published in the conference proceedings.

Are there any difficulties in life that you’ve overcome to pursue graduate studies?
Yes! Significant health challenges in the period immediately preceding my degree. Luckily, they are behind me now.

What are you planning to do after you complete your degree?
I am currently working with my supervisory committee on my proposed research design. I will submit for ethics approval in January 2019 and hope to commence my program of research as soon as possible. My target end date of this degree program is May 2020.

Do you have any advice for current and/or future graduate students?
If you have ever considered doing a PhD but had doubts for any reason my advice would be do it! It has opened up so many doors for me and allowed me to learn a lot, meet wonderful people, travel and challenge myself along the way.

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