Q&A with Brittany Bond

Get to know more about one of ILR’s nine new faculty members.
Brittany Bond is one of the nine new faculty members joining ILR in fall 2020.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Brittany Bond joins the Department of Organizational Behavior, where she will continue her work studying labor market competition with a focus on human resource programs. Before earning her doctorate in May from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies. Bond earned a master’s degree in management and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University after attending American University and majoring in international economics as an undergraduate. 

What is your research about?
I study the importance of recognizing professional merit and expertise through things like employee performance evaluations and knowing details about employees’ past career histories. My research illustrates how such status recognition can have an outsized impact on decisions made in the labor market. One example is that top performers are more likely to quit working for a leading organization to go work for a lesser competitor after they do not receive an ‘exceptional’ performance review. Even when this recognition is purely symbolic – everybody knows who the highest performers are, no matter the label that gets attached to their performance reviews – the under-recognized employees still react drastically. The symbolic under-recognition causes them to start looking for other career opportunities. This is true, despite the fact that everyone knows how great their work is, and even when managers give them the highest year-end bonuses in the company.

How did you become interested in your field?
I was working as an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau optimizing the 2020 decennial census collection operations. This project highlighted the potential of using linked data connecting demographic and employment histories in new ways. In the course of this work, I started asking sociological questions about how small labor market factors could have a tremendous impact on an individual’s employment trajectory. This led me to the field of economic sociology. 
What impact do you hope your research will have?
Symbolic recognition is important for worker self-image and their attachment organizations. Even when a company invests significant time and attention to comprehensive performance reviews of their employees, the smallest details in the execution can be consequential. A deeper understanding of why this is and how to design employee recognition schemes accordingly will improve the quality of the employment relationship. 
What attracted you to the ILR School?
I have long admired faculty members of the ILR school from both reading their research and meeting them at conferences. When I came to campus to present my research last fall, the questions and comments I received during my talk were exceptionally insightful. Both the faculty and students I met pushed my thinking in new and exciting directions. I left the visit both energized by these research conversations and immensely impressed by the work that my future peers are involved with. 

What are you most excited for about your time at ILR?
I’m most excited by the diversity of thought among the ILR faculty! I look forward to learning more about the wide array of research my colleagues are working on.
Cornell’s “Any Person, Any Study” ethos – how will you be part of that?
Nobody’s path to what they become “when they grow up” follows a perfectly straight line. Embracing the new and unexpected with an open mind enhances even the strongest concentration on an intellectual or professional pursuit. In both class and informal settings, I will encourage myself, students and colleagues to consider new and different approaches to questions or problems they are facing, even if that means going in a direction that they are less familiar or comfortable with. No direction is off limits or predetermined just because of the path taken up to a given point.

If you could share one piece of advice with your students, what would it be?
Concentrate on maximizing your strengths, rather than minimizing your weaknesses.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
Access to youth sports. I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not part of a team sport. Even during my Ph.D., my favorite release was to play intramural soccer with my classmates. I have been volunteering either as a youth soccer or as a running coach since I was 14. Over the years, the kids I have coached have taught me more about the value of teamwork, hard work and dedication than any other source. I try to pay it forward by continuing to invest in youth sports in my local communities. 
Favorite piece of advice from a mentor or inspiring figure in your life?
My adviser’s favorite response to anything important, either good or bad, is “Onward!” For instance, a rejection to a journal article submission, after discussing what next and how to improve the piece, is capped off with “Onward!” This helps show how bumps in the road are not failures, but part of the journey. When an article finally makes it into print, those happy moments are still capped off with their own “Onward!” The discovery process does not end when our research meets the printer. These little “Onward!” markers are great reminders for how thrilling the research process can be!
What was the best part of your college experience?
Studying abroad in Cuba 15 years ago. Even though it is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, it is hard to find an economic system further from that of the United States. It was exciting to study everything about the country while living in its seaside capital. Every day was a new adventure. I got to travel across the entire island and play on the University of Havana’s women’s soccer team (until I broke my toe).

What’s something people are surprised to learn about you?
Beets are my favorite food!