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        Faculty, Management, Research

        Faculty/staff profile: Miles Zachary's research explores executives' behaviors, strategies

        April 20, 2021 By Joe McAdory and Charlsie Etheredge

        All News



        Miles Zachary teaches Strategic Management at the Harbert College and earned a PhD in Management at Texas Tech University.



        "As someone who studies and believes in the power of communication in business, I think our students benefit from not only developing knowledge, but an ability to communicate that knowledge effectively." — Miles Zachary, Assistant Professor in Management

        Miles Zachary, Assistant Professor of Management at the Harbert College, teaches Strategic Management classes and has a keen interest in researching organizational behavior, stakeholder relationships and performance. Learn more about Miles by reading below:

        HCOB: Tell us about your research interests and the impact your research has made in business practice.

        Zachary: My interests center on the intersection of strategy and psychology, which means much of my research focuses on the behavioral area of strategy. This covers how executives think and how this influences their decision making, which ultimately impacts the firm. Lately within this area, the research I've published has been focused on how organizations and executives communicate and how it affects stakeholder decision-making. This is specifically related to investors and the media. If a company makes a comment about something, how do investors react? How does the media react? Then ultimately, how does this impact the company itself and what it should do moving forward?

        HCOB: Tell us about some of your recently published research.

        Zachary: Brian Connelly and I recently published a paper in the Journal of Management which explored companies that engage in what we call virtue framing or virtue rhetoric. This is where they talk about themselves in terms of ethics and virtue. Every company does it -- making decisions they claim to be ethical. We examined how this rhetoric impacts the company if it ended up violating those ethics at some point. What we found is the more companies boast about ethics and virtue before the violation, the more they're punished by shareholders.

        milesWhat was very interesting is there is a subset of firms which are not punished, and in some cases, even rewarded for violating their own ethics. We had to dive into these cases to kind of understand what's going on here. What we found was essentially there's lots of different types of investors. There are people like you and I who have a relatively small portfolio and are perhaps more reactionary. When we hear news that a company violated its own ethics, we panic, right? We sell. We say, ‘I don't want to touch this firm. This is going to be bad.’ There is another set of investors who are patient and more long-term focused. They represent usually a lot of hard money -- like hedge funds, pension plans, managed money funds, big blockholders, and activist investors. They're not as deterred by things you and I are. Those panicky investors leave quick, the big money moves in and buys up devalued stock which buoys the stock price. We found this happened to some firms. Overall, it seems that investors may be willing to overlook unethical behavior if the future financial performance of the company looks bright.

        HCOB: What drives you to explore this business practice? And what motivates you to research so much?

        Zachary: I'm naturally curious. I've always been that way. I've always been somebody who’s been interested in psychology to some extent.

        HCOB: What’s it like when you see one of your former students sustaining success in the business world.

        Zachary: It's not only rewarding in the sense, ‘Hey, maybe I did in some direct or indirect way, help this person get where they are,’ but there's going to be sort of a hook back to the college. There's a connection and they're going to maintain that connection with us. We, as a college, benefit from their success.

        HCOB: What are the main points you want your students to take with them as they walk away from your classroom?

        Zachary: I’ve succeeded if students leave my class with a solid business vocabulary and a firm grasp of the basic yet important business concepts. As someone who studies and believes in the power of communication in business, I think our students benefit from not only developing knowledge, but an ability to communicate that knowledge effectively. When someone can’t communicate effectively, it undermines their knowledge and abilities. But, when a person can effectively communicate their thoughts, it enhances their knowledge and capabilities. I want the people who interact with our students to think ‘wow, they get it.’