Associate Professor Marjo-Riitta Diehl, What do you research and why?
My work falls under the broad umbrella organizational behavior and most of my current research concerns organizational justice. I am interested in questions such as what fairness means at present workplaces; how workers make fairness judgements and above all, what role fairness plays in the minds and actions of managers and leaders. Fairness and justice are fundamental human needs and critical to ensuring cooperation, reciprocity, and coordination of groups and organizations – in other words, super important!
Justice creates a sense of control, predictability, satisfaction, and trust, are thereby it also contributes to our mental and physical well-being. Inter-individual issues such as organizational justice can be ‘understood up’ to influence macro-level issues such as sustainability and poverty reduction.
Naturally, organizational justice also relates to the issues of diversity and inclusion. Relatedly, women and leadership and women’s careers are another theme that I am passionate about. In my recent work, I have for example examined women’s strategies for overcoming role-conflicts related being a woman and a leader and networking in contexts in which homophily is enforced, i.e. in women-only events. And like most of academics, I also have some “hobby projects” that divert from my main interests but are too fascinating to be dropped!
How did you become a Professor of Organization and Management at Aalto?
I would describe myself as a quite all-rounder academic who has been engaged in a variety of different types of roles and tasks in various locations! I tend to say “yes” to various requests without thinking too much which has surely greatly enriched my career and enabled me to learn a lot but may also have made my career path to look a bit curvy.
My career started with research related tasks at the International Labor Office in Geneva where I worked for some five years before starting my PhD at the London School of Economics. After completing my thesis, I started to work at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki. From there I moved back to a university context and assumed first the role of a lecturer and later of an acting assistant professor at Hanken School of Economics.
As it is, career decisions are often intertwined with decisions concerning personal life, and with a heavy heart but without later regrets I left Hanken after some years to follow my husband-to-be to Germany. In Germany, I worked for nearly 13 years at a private institution called EBS Business School, where I – besides teaching and research – served in various roles such as the Academic Director of the MBA and MSc in Management Programs, Head of Department and most recently, as Vice Dean Research.
What brought me to Aalto? A good question! As an organizational behavior scholar, I would like to refer to the Kaleidoscope Career Model, which describes how we all strive for authenticity, balance, and challenge in our careers and how these three parameters are always present but prioritized at different intensities across the life span. Although I am highly appreciative of the time at EBS, these parameters – for several reasons - fell out of sync over the past years and drove me to seek a career transition, which finally worked out perfectly from my perspective. I am very happy to be your new Aalto colleague! Having also lived most of my adulthood abroad makes me view Finland and Finnishness in a very positive light.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Again, referring to the Kaleidoscope Career Model, at different stages of one’s career different things appear cool. But to be honest, this position at Aalto is one of the key highlights of my career. Also, this summer I started in an elected role at Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management and I am very curious about seeing how the machinery of such a huge organization works. I am happy to be a tiny part of it, serving and contributing to the broader academic community.
In general, I regard many challenging tasks, times or roles over the years as “highlights” in my career, even if they may have not brought about any glory, or they don’t shine on my cv. Yet they have pushed me out of my comfort zone and contributed significantly to who I am today.
Which qualities are the most important for you to succeed in your work?
On one hand curiosity, observant mind, and willingness to learn are key characteristics that academics need in my view. On the other hand, academics also need persistence and a thick skin; and they should be able to not take things too personally. At least in my field, projects extend over long periods and tend to demand high investments in time and resources, feedback is scarce and comes usually with a lot of delay and is often (very) negative in tone. One needs to be very good at self-leadership and entrepreneurial in spirit to handle this job!
What do you expect from the future?
At this very moment, I feel very confident and excited about the new phase in my career and believe in a bright future! I look forward to getting to know the various stakeholders of our work at Aalto, and especially the students. I hope I can make a positive difference to Aalto community and beyond with my work.