by Meredith Dault
8th December 2010
When people find out about Lukas Neville's research, they almost always have a story to share with him. "It's kind of a mixed blessing," he says with a laugh. On planes and trains, he often finds himself a captive audience to fellow passengers' tales of workplace conflict. Currently in the fourth year of a PhD in Organizational Behavior at Queen's School of Business, Neville's research is around trust and conflict management.
"It's about how people resolve disputes and conflicts between themselves," he explains over espresso at a campus coffee shop. More specifically, he focuses on how groups and their members "forge, maintain and, when necessary, repair trusting relationships." He is particularly interested in the role of interpersonal forgiveness, particularly as it pertains to the dynamics of groups and teams.
"I'm basically looking at forgiveness in the workplace," he explains, acknowledging that it's a relatively new stream in the world of management. "I'm interested in the effects of forgiveness after a trust violation. If, for example, someone breaks my trust in an awful way, what does it take for me to forgive? What does it mean for the person who broke my trust to be forgiven? And then, going outside of that: What does observing forgiveness do for other members of a team? These things don't happen in isolation. What are the effects on bystanders in that kind of situation?"
Neville's interest in conflict resolution began while he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in political science at Queen's (class of '03). A London, Ontario native, he carried on to a Master's degree in the same discipline at McGill, later returning to Kingston to work at the Queen's Centre for Business Venturing (http://business.queensu.ca/centres/qcbv/index.php) -- a centre that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation.
Over the course of a couple of years there, Neville says he wore a number of different hats, and did a lot of writing. "I started to think about some of the issues I'm now interested in," he explains. "I was looking at entrepreneurial teams, and what allowed them to succeed or to peter out. And to some extent, it all came down how founders managed to resolve conflicts and establish trust." Neville says it was this human element that struck him as a critical factor in new business ventures. "I got more and more intrigued," he laughs, "and eventually, I found myself back in grad school!"
In addition to his thesis work, Neville has a number of different research projects on the go. He's currently working with his supervisor, Susan Brodt (who is cross-listed between management and psychology), on research looking at satisfaction and time in negotiation. He's also working with Glenda Fisk, at the School of Policy Studies, on researching the topic of entitlement. "You know how some people act like they think the world owes them something? Well, we're looking at how that influences behaviour and outcomes in negotiation."
As he nears the end of his degree, Neville says he hopes to be on the academic job market in the summer. He looks forward to a career continuing both his research and teaching. "I taught a negotiation course two years ago, and that was a great experience," he says. "It was a lot of fun. The students really got into it."
Neville says he's enjoyed his time at Queen's, and his affiliation with the School of Business. "It's been a really great place," he says reflectively, "and it's a nice place to be for a person who is curious about a lot of things. There are people from a lot of different disciplines and backgrounds." He cites the collegiality among his classmates as one of the best things about his experience. "Everyone helps each other out, piloting studies, reading each others papers," he explains, "it's unbelievably cohesive and helpful. And the faculty -- it's really obvious that they make supervision their priority. It's been a great experience that way, too."