TitleExperimental Shareholder Activism: A Novel Approach to Organizational Research
Publication TypeJournal Articles
AuthorsKalodimos, J, Leavitt, K
JournalJournal of Vocational Behavior
Date Published2020 In Press
KeywordsFinance, Management, MBA

Decision making processes and consequent policy decisions of top management teams often have tremendous impact on employee careers and wellbeing, but the difficulty of accessing executive decision making has made studying such processes especially difficult. Whereas scholars have often relied on their own professional networks to gather small samples of executives or leveraged proxy measures compiled from publicly-available documents, we propose and demonstrate an alternative approach which we term Experimental Shareholder Activism (ESA). ESA allows researchers to directly study executive leadership via the shareholder proposal process—under Rule 14a-8—by purchasing relatively small amounts of stock in a company, and experimentally manipulating features of shareholder proposals to elicit responses from key stakeholders within the company. This approach allows for the direct examination of executive decision making with the benefit of quasi-experimental design. We describe the method, identify vocational and career-relevant areas of inquiry best suited to ESA, and discuss manipulations readily embedded in shareholder proposals. We then provide a toolkit for scholars interested in studying executive decision making on employee career and Human Resource-related outcomes, and demonstrate the viability of such an approach via a pilot experiment.