Author: Sara Savat

avatar

About Sara Savat

As a senior news director for social sciences, I write about political science, religion (and their intersection), sociology, education, anthropology, philosophy and linguistics. I have a passion for storytelling and enjoy working with our world-renowned faculty and members of the media to bring research to life for the public. Prior to joining the Public Affairs team, I worked in public relations at SSM Health and covered academic medicine at Saint Louis University. I have a master’s degree in communication from SLU. Outside of work, I am most likely to be found at a dance studio or cheering from the sidelines of a soccer field. My family and I also love traveling, camping and visiting national parks.


Following the expiration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday, Dec. 1, team owners announced a lockout of the players. It is the league’s first work stoppage in nearly three decades.

What does that mean for the 2022 season? What do team owners and players stand to lose?

​Rishe

“It is hard to imagine a scenario where the current standoff between baseball owners and players would lead to lost games in 2022,” said Patrick Rishe, director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University’s Olin Business School and professor of practice in sports business.

According to Rishe, the pandemic-induced economic losses sustained by MLB teams during the 2020 and 2021 seasons add incentive to reach an agreement before the start of the 2022 season.

“Of course, that’s assuming that acrimony and egos don’t get in the way, which at times in baseball’s history would be deemed a heroic assumption,” Rishe said.

Baseball in December?

According to Rishe, to initiate a lockout with over three months before the start of the 2022 season is, in some respects, “much ado about nothing.”

“In any type of negotiation, real deadlines spur action. The recent settlement between the City of St. Louis and the Rams/NFL are evidence of this, as is the 2011 NFL season where players were locked out from March until August without regular-season games lost,” he said.

“As such, I suspect this lockout will get resolved between late February and mid-March.”

However, Rishe noted that the NBA lockout of 2011 and the NHL lockout of 2012 did cost those leagues games. “But those standoffs didn’t occur in the immediate aftermath of a global pandemic, giving me confidence smarter minds and cooler heads will prevail in MLB before games are lost in 2022,” he said.

No-win situation

From a public relations perspective, however, baseball has already lost.  

“Baseball has fallen from being America’s pastime to a sport that feels past its time with younger generations of fans,” Rishe said. “It is now only the third most popular sports league in America behind the NFL and NBA.

“Games are too long, the style of play too dull and slow. Players and teams still lag behind their NFL and NBA peers in encouraging individualism through social media to help market the sport among younger fans.”

Rishe offered the following advice to team owners and players:

“It is crucial during these labor negotiations that both sides show discipline to not get the media involved to sway public sentiment, because if both sides spew the same public vitriol toward each other as they did when trying to return to play during the 2020 pandemic, this would only further amplify fan resentment and reticence to re-engage in 2022.”


It’s common knowledge that holiday shopping is going to be challenging this year due to the broken supply chain. Many favorite items — like game consoles, toys, clothing and shoes — will be in short supply. And if you’re lucky enough to find the hottest toy on your child’s wish list, you will likely pay more for it. But what does the new year hold? Will 2022 be better?

Kouvelis
Kouvelis

The answer is maybe, but not right away, according to Panos Kouvelis, director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation at Washington University in St. Louis.

In early February 2020 — a full month before the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic — Kouvelis predicted that the coronavirus would wreak havoc on the global supply chain for two years.

His most recent prediction is a little more optimistic. According to Kouvelis, supply chain issues — including product scarcity and logistical bottlenecks — will continue through mid-2022. The automotive industry will not fully recover before 2023. His prediction is based on several factors, including:

  • Corporate hoarding: Kouvelis believes that some of the orders currently bogging down systems are the result of corporate hoarding. Faced with long shipping times and fears of rationing, companies place extra orders in hope they’ll get the product and materials they need. Many larger companies with more resources have built up warehouses stocked with excess inventory, and some of their incoming inventory is waiting on large vessels trying to clear ports. These phantom and excess orders add pressure to an already vulnerable system, but he believes buyers will ease up in the coming months as logistical delays improve. “After a while, we realized our basement had a limit on how much toilet paper it can hold. The same is true for warehouse space,” Kouvelis said.
  • The Chinese New Year: Chinese factories and ports will slow down for two weeks in early February, adding extra pressure on the supply chain.
  • Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, ports have moved to 24/7 operations: In October, President Joe Biden, along with business, port and union leaders, announced a plan to strengthen the resiliency of supply chains by moving toward 24/7 operations at these ports. Increased port operations, along with increased trucking and rail capacity, will help reduce the load that has built up at the ports. However, the shortage of truckers will delay the port recovery.
  • Return to normal factory operations in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand: These countries, which produce the majority of garments, shoes and toys in the U.S., were hit especially hard by the delta variant this summer, causing factories to reduce or even stop operations. The situation is improving, but the increase in production will not reach the U.S. until after the holidays.  

“We’re hoping that within the first six months of 2022, the port situation and efforts to increase capacity, both on the railroad and trucking, will improve substantially. If that happens and the demand on the system lessens, things will look better by summer,” Kouvelis said

Could trouble be lurking?

There’s one factor that could derail Kouvelis’ prediction, though: China’s energy crisis. Currently, rising costs have forced Chinese energy companies — that until recently could not raise energy prices due to government-enforced caps — to place restrictions on heavy manufacturing customers. As a result, manufacturers were forced to cut operations by as much as 40%. It doesn’t take long for these shutdowns to impact the quantity of products coming to the U.S. Now, the government has removed energy price caps for manufacturers — especially those that produce cement, steel and paper — but that means the cost will be passed on to consumers, Kouvelis explained.

“The story that I’m not sure how it’s going to play out is the energy crisis in China,” Kouvelis said. “The energy crisis could resolve itself in the next month or two. But if China has an especially cold winter and energy demands remain high, they’ll have to cut capacity further.

“If that happens, 2022 will be driven by that crisis and the constraints that it creates.”

According to Kouvelis, the effects of China’s energy crisis have not yet made its way to the U.S. due to the backup of products on ships outside the U.S. However, within the next month, American consumers will notice greater product shortages and higher prices.

What is the U.S. government doing to address these challenges?

“The government policies will be very important in addressing the long-term misuses of supply chain,” said Kouvelis. who also is the Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management at Olin Business School. “The government is on the right track, but these problems cannot be resolved within a month or even six months.”

In addition to opening ports for 24/7 operations, Congress recently approved the $1 trillion infrastructure plan that will fund improvements for the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, rail transit, power grid and more, which will ultimately help the supply chain for years to come.

According to Kouvelis, the government also is rethinking trade policies and tariffs with Europe that have created flow constraints. The trade situation with China has more political risks and could continue to impact trade in the future, though.

“Among the risks to consider is the role that climate change and carbon emissions negotiations might play out between the U.S. and China, with the potential that quotas and tariffs be later tied with emission reduction requests,” Kouvelis said. “The Xinjiang forced Uyghur labor situation is a sensitive point, and so far had negative sales implications for Western companies that took a position on it, like H&M and Adidas. And Taiwan’s sovereignty, with its tremendous importance for semiconductor capacity, will remain a ghost in all future trade talks.” 

How will this crisis shape future supply chains, U.S. policy?  

“The tremendous dependency of critical U.S. supply chains like drugs, batteries and semiconductors to long Asian-based producers and suppliers has become a vulnerability visible to all after the recent pandemic-related supply chain mess. This has been brewing for decades,” Kouvelis said.

Since the ’90s, the U.S. and other developed countries have become increasingly reliant on global supply chains to source cheap labor and materials and keep prices down. When the World Trade Organization accepted China in early 2000 into the organization, the expectation was that the free flow of goods coming from Asia would benefit all economies, he said.

“That story held up to an extent until the pandemic, when the logistics broke down and the Chinese government was controlling what products left the country and we didn’t have access to critical PPE,” Kouvelis said.

That’s led to the realization that more regional supply chains are needed, especially for critical items. While not everything will be produced in the U.S., American companies will increasingly look to source materials from neighboring countries such as Canada and Mexico, he said.

The government has committed $50 billion to boost semiconductor production in the U.S., which will improve access to these critical computer chips over the long term. But Kouvelis estimates that it will take at least two years for the first factory to open.

“Some of the microprocessors — probably the low-end microprocessors — will come from Asia, but the more critical components will either be made in Europe or the U.S.,” Kouvelis said.

“The same is true for pharmaceuticals. Right now, most of the critical components are coming from China and India. Expect the government to invest in our pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.”

Of course, the U.S. is not alone in its supply chain struggles. Europe, parts of Asia and Australia are all experiencing similar supply chain disruptions. The situation is even worse in the U.K. because of Brexit, Kouvelis said.

While no one knows for sure how or when supply chains will be fully operational, Kouvelis said this is for certain: The experience of the last two years will shape supply chain planning and operations for years to come.




This week, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified about the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she leaked exposing how Facebook prioritized profits over the public’s safety and called on lawmakers to regulate the social media network.

By bringing to light the consequences of Facebook’s algorithms, Haugen’s testimony has forced corporations to rethink their relationship with Facebook and use of consumer data, according to digital media experts at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Most advertisers who invest in Facebook or other social media platforms are aware of the ways in which these technologies collect and use customer data to improve the ROI (return on investment) of advertising dollars. In fact, these capabilities are positioned as a selling point,” said Michael Wall, professor of marketing practice and co-director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights at Olin Business School.

Wall

“That said, other aspects of how Facebook and others drive great returns for their advertisers have been hidden within their algorithms. The whistleblower has changed that. Advertisers are now aware, and they will now be faced with decisions related to both the ethical use of data and being values-based.” 

According to Wall, business leaders should be thinking hard about how their firms — many of whom have become dependent on platforms such as Facebook for business growth — will use customer data responsibly.

“Certainly, the amount of users on these platforms is appealing in that it enables marketers the ability to reach a lot of consumers. That said, the real value is driven by the algorithms within these platforms that track everything we say and do to pinpoint which of those users should see our content, when and how many times,” Wall said.

This raises ethical questions about what is appropriate to not only track, but also share with third parties — some of whom use the data to advertise and track consumers beyond the original platforms. It’s easy to focus on Facebook given its behemoth size, but any company using consumer data is at risk of causing harm to its consumers.

Nevskaya

“Every organization with access to rich consumer data, using Facebook as an advertising vehicle or not, must at least from time to time confront the dilemma: should some information be used to improve the profit line in the short run even though it might not be in the best interest of a consumer?” said Yulia Nevskaya, assistant professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“It is a difficult situation to manage for a brand, given that the interests of a particular manager might not always align well with a long-term success of a brand. Implementing data-driven and values-based culture and decision-making is key.”

This is not the first time Facebook has found itself in the hot seat for its handling of user data, misinformation and other threats to American democracy. The more customers, companies and government have learned about social media, the more pushback has been generated from each stakeholder, Wall said.

Consumers are demanding change

Change is already underway. For example, Apple’s recent feature with its iOS 14.5 update notifies customers that apps are tracking their data and gives consumers the ability to block said tracking.

“This was a massive blow to Facebook, among others, who rely on that tracking to drive more advertising revenue,” Wall said. “Apple isn’t the only one. Google is also preparing to block third-party cookie tracking. These industry actions, coupled with government policies such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the California Privacy Rights Act, will make the use of customer data more difficult in years to come.” 

Companies have a choice: Short-term profits or long-term growth

Limiting the use of consumer data or cutting ties with Facebook altogether may seem like an unfathomable choice for businesses. However, taking a stand now could pay dividends down the road.

“Research over the last several years has shown that customers prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their personal values,” Wall said.

In 2018, Nike was one of the first major brands to take a controversial stand with its Colin Kaepernick commercial. Since then, many more companies have taken stands on social issues that align with their brand values, such as racial injustice, voting rights, gun laws, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

“As a marketer, my position is that brand equity is ultimately not driven by advertising. Furthermore, it is something we certainly cannot control. Instead, our brand is something we steward,” Wall said.

“This stewardship is driven by choices we make, which drive the actions we take, and together they lead to consequences in the market. Leaders must make tough choices about near-term growth and long-term growth. The wrong choices today may enable more profit today but may also lead to decreases down the road.” 

Consumers literacy is essential

Social media are new, powerful and complex players and we, as a society and as individuals, have to get tooled very quickly to live with them, Nevskaya said.

“Social media shapes our world, our information bubble and our choices. We now know that our Facebook feed is carefully calculated by algorithms that decide which political opinions, sources of information and products are most likely to elicit a response from us,” she said.

Facebook and other social media companies—possibly with the help of regulators—have a responsibility to confront the ethical dilemma of their business. At the same time, consumers need access to reliable information about the ways in which social media impacts their lives.

“Consumer literacy should be taken seriously and implemented in a comprehensive way, starting at an early age,” Nevskaya said.   

“Over the last two decades, as the situation with Facebook illustrates, companies and organizations developed extremely sophisticated tools to advertise and promote their products and ideas,” Nevskaya said. “Gone are the days when a television ad for a major brand consisted of mostly repeating the name of the brand many times in a loud voice, which marketers believed would make the consumer remember the product and buy it.

“Consumers are smart, but they need to be fully aware of the new methods, how exactly their personal information is used by organizations and to be offered very concrete tips on navigating modern marketing.”




The goal of any new leader is to quickly establish a high level of trust and credibility with the team. After all, numerous studies have shown that trust in leadership is linked to higher individual and team performance. However, that might not be the best strategy for long-term success, according to a new study from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

That’s because trust is dynamic by nature, and it is particularly susceptible to change early in the leader’s tenure with a team when the leader is under greater scrutiny.

Researchers found that employees’ initial expectations for a new leader were an indicator of how trust levels would change over time. The higher the initial level of follower expectations, the greater the potential to experience a decline.

However, leaders who started with low or moderate levels of initial trust were more likely to experience a steep increase in trust over time, particularly when engaging in particular behaviors. That’s important because leaders who experienced increases in trust were, in turn, consistently rated more effective by their supervisors. 

“Our findings depart from conventional wisdom, which seeks to maximize the level of trust in the leader from day one,” said Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs and the Bank of America Professor of Leadership at Olin Business School.

Dirks

“Although having a high level of employee trust in a leader is associated with effectiveness, we found that it is even more effective to start at a moderate level of trust and increase to a high level over the first several months. This approach allows leaders to build a sustainable foundation of trust and create a sense of positive momentum.”

While previous studies have looked at the relationship between team performance and trust in leadership at a particular point in time, Dirk’s research — published recently in the Journal of Business Ethics — is the first to show how changes in trust over time affect leader and team performance from the start of a relationship. 

The study also revealed a set of behaviors that were particularly effective at accelerating the development of trust. Leaders that engaged in behaviors referred to as transformational leadership, an ethics-based leadership style, experienced faster rates of trust development. Key to this approach were the focus on values and on taking time to develop the relationship with individuals. 

Patrick Sweeney of Wake Forest University, Nikolaos Dimotakis of Oklahoma State University and Todd Woodruff of the United States Military Academy are co-authors of the study.

The study took place at the United States Military Academy. Dirks and team surveyed cadets who attended the academy to simultaneously earn college degrees and gain officer commissions in the U.S. Army upon graduation.

To assess how trust developed and changed over time, data were collected over four time points from more than 500 individuals organized into 130 squads, beginning during the first week of the program and continuing approximately every five weeks. Squad members reported on their trust in their direct leader. Additionally, leadership one level above the unit leader responded about unit effectiveness.

How employee expectations, leadership styles impact trust

Even before the new leader joins the team, companies frequently create high expectations by touting the person’s credentials and high goals. Employees also use social connections, situational contexts and personal attributes — such as age, race, gender, body language or presence — to measure up the new leader, Dirks said.

“Some leaders are able to establish a high level of trust immediately, while other leaders — particularly minorities — may start with low levels of trust and need to build trust over time,” he said.

However, the research shows there could be advantages to earning employees’ trust rather than starting off with it.

In the study group, leaders one standard deviation above the mean on expectations experienced a decline in followers’ trust over time, while those leaders one standard deviation below the mean experienced an increase in trust.  

“Our analysis suggests that this is not just a regression to the mean phenomenon but rather is based on psychological factors,” Dirks said.

Another consistent pattern emerged from the data: Transformational leaders were more trusted by their employees by the end of the study. According to Dirks, transformational leaders are those who exemplify moral standards and foster an ethical work environment. They also encourage development of their employees and emphasize cooperation and open communication, he said.

Leaders who began with low expectations were able to quickly overcome the initial trust deficit if they displayed high levels of transformational leadership, Dirks said. And leaders who began with high expectations were able to maintain a high level of trust with subordinates if they displayed high levels of transformational leadership.

By comparison, leaders who began with high expectations experienced a sharp negative rate of change in their followers’ trust if they displayed low levels of transformational leadership.

“This study suggests that leaders may establish trust most quickly by managing expectations for how they will be an effective leader, and subsequently engaging in a particular set of behaviors that earn trust,” Dirks said.  




Many employers have already begun transitioning employees back to the office, while others plan to resume in-office work in the coming months. But after more than a year of working from home, is returning to business as usual even possible? Or desirable?

Employees have changed amid this pandemic. The more a company can match employee preferences and the optimal work conditions required for a given role, the better off they’ll be in terms of hiring and employee retention, according to Peter Boumgarden, an organizational behavior expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Boumgarden

“Working from home has a level of flexibility that is hard to match in a traditional environment,” said Boumgarden, the Koch Professor of Practice for Family Enterprise at Olin Business School. “Research by Nicholas Bloom and colleagues suggests that employees value this benefit, even seeing it as equivalent to the value they would get from a non-significant pay raise.”

And it’s not just flexibility that employees want.

“We know that autonomy — especially perceived autonomy — is a huge driver of employee satisfaction,” said Markus Baer, professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School. “Just having the sense that you have control of your schedule and when to do certain tasks can boost motivation.”

Of course, there are benefits to working in the traditional office setting for individuals and teams. Interdependent work that requires coordination and input from multiple people is easier to accomplish in person. So are nonlinear tasks like brainstorming. Being co-located also helps employees feel connected to the team and provides networking opportunities that can help them advance their careers. This kind of rich social connection can be hard to mimic online, Boumgarden said.

Despite some of the benefits, some employers are seeking a return to more traditional working conditions.

“In my view, the return to office is driven by some mix of companies trying to recapture some of those lost elements, the desire to use expensive office real-estate set up for this strategy and, perhaps, because the old world still feels a bit more familiar,” he said. 

No one-size-fits-all approach

The question should not be whether to return to the office, continue working remotely or some hybrid option, but rather: What is the nature of the employee’s work? That’s what should drive return-to-work plans, Baer said.

Baer

For individual contributors, going into the physical office is less essential. In fact, many people have found over the past year and a half that they are more productive working at home without the typical office disruptions.

However, co-location becomes increasingly important as work becomes more interdependent and complex — especially when frequent communication is required, Baer said. Collaborative tasks such as ideating or coordinating projects are accomplished more efficiently in person.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean employees need to be in the office full time. For many teams, the ideal arrangement will change week to week based on current work needs, Baer said.

“There’s some research that shows that teams do really well when they have bursts of activity. I could envision teams coming together for a week or a block of intense activity to solve a problem and then disband when the problem is solved and it’s clear who is going to do what. Once those tasks are complete, the team can reconvene,” Baer said.

Hybrid challenges

From a productivity standpoint, a well-planned hybrid arrangement offers the best of both worlds: time in the office to plan and coordinate work, and uninterrupted time at home to complete tasks. Hybrid arrangements also enable employees to retain an office footprint while keeping some of the flexibility they’ve enjoyed over the past year and a half. For these reasons, Boumgarden believes hybrid work will be the future for many organizations. However, the challenges of hybrid work are significant, perhaps even more so than traditional in-person offices and fully remote work environments, he said.

“There’s some research that shows that teams do really well when they have bursts of activity. I could envision teams coming together for a week or a block of intense activity to solve a problem and then disband when the problem is solved.”

Markus Baer

“Very few of our offices are technologically or socially set up for a world where half of the workers are in the office and half are working from home,” Boumgarden said. “Managers needs to be thinking very hard about workflows required to drive efficiency and innovation in this new set-up. Overcoming these challenges will require investment of time and capital on the part of leaders.”

There are also employee management issues to overcome in a hybrid model. For example, if one person decides to work from home more frequently and another stays in the office, will they be seen equally by their superiors?

“I would argue that true clarity of expectations is critical. Workers should know both what the stated expectation is, but also what is the implicit norm,” Boumgarden said.

Lessons learned

For those who plan to return to a traditional office work arrangement, there are still lessons to be learned from the great work-from-home experiment. For starters, leaders need to revisit how frequently they schedule meetings, Baer said.

“When people are co-located, it’s easy to call a meeting to discuss something, but oftentimes these meetings are unproductive and nothing is really accomplished that couldn’t have been done in a simple email exchange,” Baer said.

The same communication tools that kept teams running while working remotely — such as Microsoft Teams, Skype or Slack — can still be used to inform employees or collect information without forcing them to sit through yet another meeting.  

Boumgarden hopes the experience of managing remotely will ultimately change how leaders do their jobs when they’re back in the office.

“For managers, I hope there are lessons learned about how one manages toward outcome versus micromanaging process alone,” he said. “Let’s start by acknowledging true contribution cannot be linked to minute and hours alone. For example, I might have an exceptionally productive hour that is equivalent to my typical four hours of output. The next day, I might have four hours of time that distill down to less than an hour of true ‘productivity.’ Or what about the breakthrough that occurs on a run or while lying awake at night? How should this be managed? Does it count as work time? These are the questions our next generation leaders should be asking.

“All this said, as soon as we realize that contribution does not neatly map onto time blocks, our way of assessing work should evolve,” Boumgarden continued. “I hope managers start to think about how they might creatively evaluate progress toward goals, while at the same time realizing that people work in different ways to reach this value.

“By not being able to micromanage over the last year-plus, I think many people had a realization that their actual management was much more superficial than truly additive of value,” he added.  

But perhaps the most important lesson we all learned over the past year and a half is the importance of remaining flexible.

“I think there is value in saying new models are still experiments. A company might roll out one approach to hybrid for some time and then adjust back as the data gives insight around what is and is not working,” Boumgarden said.