Tom Tripp: Business

While on professional leave last year, Tom Tripp received the Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence. A prolific author who has done pioneering research on revenge and retaliation in the workplace, he has recently expanded his focus to workplace forgiveness, and his leave gave him much-needed time to write.

Tripp, a professor of management in the Carson College of Business, spent a month at the University of British Columbia working with a frequent collaborator, Karl Aquino, and discussing workplace forgiveness with scholars at the Centre for Ethics. With Aquino and two other scholars, Robert Bies of Georgetown University and Lori Barclay of Wilfrid Laurier University, he drafted a major paper on the meaning of forgiveness at the organizational level. They plan to submit the paper to the Academy of Management Annals in February 2015. “It isn’t that the workplace forgives,” Tripp said, “but the workplace can facilitate or get in the way.”

For example, an employee has words with a trippmanager, and although the employee wants to forgive, the company launches an investigation. What is fundamentally an employee-on-employee dispute becomes something bigger because of other organizational interests.

Another research project came to fruition last year as well. Tripp is studying classroom fairness in collaboration with three former WSU Vancouver students: Lixin Jiang, now at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh; Maja Graso, at Zayed University; and Kristine Olson, at Dixie State University. A paper they submitted is now in review. The collaborators were investigating any correlation between higher grades and better teacher evaluations—a subject of concern among faculty. “We found that if you use transparently fair procedures in the classroom, the correlation between grades and evaluations goes away,” Tripp said. “Students are not necessarily looking for a good grade, but for a fair grade.”

Although faculty members worry about this, Tripp said, “Our message is to stop worrying and do the right thing. As long as you use transparently fair procedures, students won’t ‘get even’ with you on evaluations. And the higher purpose of education will be served—they will not be distracted from learning.” While the value of professional leave seems intangible to many, Tripp finds great benefit in having time to write, learn how others teach, attend conferences and learn about global business through travel. All of these things enhance the university’s research mission.

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