Dr. Karen MacMillan is an Assistant Professor in Organizational Behaviour at the Ivey Business School. She earned her M.A.Sc. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Waterloo after which she entered industry for more than a dozen years, rising to senior management and consultancy roles. In order to further delve into the field of management, she then completed a Ph.D. in Organizational Behaviour at the Ivey Business School.
Dr. MacMillan teaches courses in Organizational Behaviour in Ivey’s MBA, Executive Development, and HBA programs. She has a passion for developing course materials that both engage students and promote learning. A half-dozen of her cases have reached best-seller status, adopted by thousands upon thousands of students around the world. In a nod to her teaching prowess, she has presented on her pedagogical innovations at a number of major conferences.
Her primary research interests are in the areas of leadership, employee voice, and diversity. Her work has been published in Human Relations, the Journal of Management Education, Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice; California Management Review; and the Ivey Business Journal.
Recent Refereed Articles
MacMillan, M. K.; Hurst, C.; Kelly, K.; Howell, J. M.; Jung, Y., 2020, "Who says there’s a problem? The sending and receiving of prohibitive voice", Human Relations, August 73(8): 1049 - 4076. Abstract: Which employees are likely to warn leaders about threats to the workplace? When employees do speak up, will these messages gain the leader’s interest? In this article, we rely on theories of power to predict how employee characteristics (work prevention regulatory focus, closeness to the leader (leader-member exchange) and rank) influence whether employees send messages about threats (prohibitive voice). We also explore whether employee characteristics (closeness to the leader and rank) affect leaders’ attention to threat messages. In a two-wave field study with 55 leaders and 214 employees, we found that leaders were more likely to show interest in messages about threats from employees who they were not close to, but who had high rank. However, only employees with a strong work prevention regulatory focus and/or those of higher rank were likely to prioritize the sending of such messages. Although we also expected that employees who had a good relationship with the leader would send more information about threats, we found they were less likely to do so. This research suggests that there may be “opaque zones” in organizations, places where employees are unlikely to warn leaders about threats and where leaders will not pay attention even if they do.
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MacMillan, M. K.; Komar, J., 2018, "Population ecology (organizational ecology): An experiential exercise demonstrating how organizations in an industry are born, change, and die", Journal of Management Education, June 42(3): 375 - 397. Abstract: This article describes a classroom exercise that is designed to help students understand the basic tenets of population ecology (also known as organizational ecology). The macro-level, longitudinal approach to understanding organizations can be difficult for students to conceptualize as it involves systems thinking. This exercise makes the theory come alive by asking students to put themselves directly into the role of an organizational decision maker in an evolving industry. Over the course of one class, students get to experience how organizational sizeage, environmental factors, and even random chance can affect organizational success and the makeup of an industry. Simulating up to a decade or more, students learn that populations of organizations change in predictable ways. We have tested this exercise with hundreds of students and we present evidence that it is effective in teaching the principles of population ecology (postexercise testing average of 92%) and also engaging and enjoyable for students.
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