Hui Liao

Dr. Hui Liao is the endowed Smith Dean's Professor in Leadership and Management at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Before joining Maryland, she was on the faculties of the Rutgers University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her Ph.D. with concentrations in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and her BA in International Economics from the Renmin University of China.

Breaking Down the Effects of Speaking Up

Speak Up To Boost Productivity and Safety at Work

Want to make more good things happen at work and prevent safety problems? Just ask team members to speak up. Encouraging team members to voice their constructive opinions and concerns about work-related issues leads to performance and safety gains, according to new research from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Warding Off the Dark Side of Creativity

Moral Identity Keeps Divergent Thinkers in Check

Creative people are great at generating ideas to solve problems. Unfortunately, the same people are also great at generating clever justifications to excuse their rule-breaking at work. Deviant behavior often results. New research from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business confirms the dark side of creativity but also identifies a key boundary condition that keeps some out-of-the-box thinkers in line.

Fearless Idea 15: Break the Spiral of Abuse

An abusive boss can make work miserable for anyone, prompting defiant employees to retaliate or flee. New research co-authored by Smith School professor Hui Liao shows a third option. "Targets of humiliation, intimidation and verbal attacks can balance the dynamics over time and influence supervisors to mend strained relationships," Liao says. "Sometimes that won’t happen, but a follower has more power than he or she might realize." Breaking the spiral of abuse starts with the understanding that bullies rely on an imbalance of power in their favor, but the needle can move in any dyad. Read more...

Unethical Business with a Smile: Why Friendly Isn’t Enough

Don’t let your guard down just because a customer service agent has a disarming smile. New research from Smith School professor Hui Liao shows that companies can be friendly and unscrupulous at the same time. "Service climate is distinct from ethical climate," she says. “It’s possible to do harm, but to do it in a nice way.” Some companies even use flattery and attentiveness to compensate for their failure to protect customer interests. “Service providers may amplify superior service behavior to distract customers from unethical acts,” Liao says. Read more...

The Freedom to Gripe About Your Job

Want to talk about who is overpaid or underpaid at your office, or gripe about long hours or working conditions? You can, according to the National Labor Relations Board. But a well-run company with fair compensation practices shouldn't be overly worried if its employees talk about pay, says Smith School professor Hui Liao. She says pay gaps, particularly those based on merit, can motivate people. Read more...

Creating a Culture of Self-Starters

Companies in which employees feel empowered to solve problems on their own, rather than simply follow rules, outperform peers where that doesn't happen — and employees at such companies feel a sense of self-mastery, which improves morale. But can you create such a culture — and, if so, how? There are at least two paths to building a company of self-starters, suggests new research by Smith School professor Hui Liao. Read more...

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