Assistant Professor, Work and Organization Studies
The Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Basima Tewfik is an award-winning professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. At just 31 years old, she’s also among the youngest professors to be included on this list of top young business school talent from around the world. Tewfik received more than a dozen nominations, many of which were some of the most in-depth and thoughtful we received this year. It’s evident Tewfik’s students and former students appreciate who she is and her teaching style.
Some of Tewfik’s early research has already made an impact on academia and our world as some of her recent studies have been covered by BBC.
“One stream of research that I’m excited about, in particular, seeks to encourage us to rethink what we know about impostor syndrome at work,” Tewfik says about her research. “I suggest that the phenomenon may be best characterized as workplace impostor thoughts, rather than thinking about it as a syndrome. That is, almost anyone, at some point in their careers, may entertain the phenomenon’s characteristic thoughts (e.g., “Other people think I am smarter than I think I am”).”
Current age: 31
At current institution since what year? 2019
Education: Ph.D. and MS in Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; BA in Psychology (summa cum laude) with a secondary in Economics from Harvard College
List of MBA courses you currently teach: 15.665: Power and Negotiation
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I had toyed with the idea in college. However, I thought about the possibility seriously when I was sitting in a conference room at a client site in Phoenix (I was a general management consultant in a former life). I realized how captivated I was with analyzing my own team’s interpersonal dynamics and performance, much to the chagrin of my manager. Fortunately, it turns out business school professors get to spend time analyzing interpersonal behaviors at work as a formal part of their job if they so choose.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
One stream of research that I’m excited about, in particular, seeks to encourage us to rethink what we know about impostor syndrome at work. I suggest that the phenomenon may be best characterized as workplace impostor thoughts, rather than thinking about it as a syndrome. That is, almost anyone, at some point in their careers, may entertain the phenomenon’s characteristic thoughts (e.g., “Other people think I am smarter than I think I am”). Second, I look to rethink conventional wisdom that suggests that having such thoughts is always debilitating. In one of my projects, using survey, video, and experimental data from employees at an investment advisory firm, physicians-in-training, and a cross-industry sample of employees, I find that others at work see employees who experience workplace impostor thoughts as more interpersonally skilled. For example, patients find their physicians who more frequently have impostor thoughts as more empathetic. Supervisors find their employees who privately report experiencing more frequent impostor thoughts as more collaborative. These positive perceptions of interpersonal skill seem to stem from the observation that employees who more frequently entertain impostor thoughts exhibit a more other-focused behavioral orientation when interacting with others at work. They nod more, have better eye contact, and use more open hand gestures. While these findings are still new, they raise the possibility that perhaps there may be upsides associated with the phenomenon that may be worth harnessing.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a restaurant reviewer.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
When possible, I work one-on-one with students to apply course learnings to their post-MBA job offer negotiations. It is really rewarding to see students realize the real-world impact their course learnings can have.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Enriching
Professor I most admire and why: So many professors have had a direct hand in shaping me into who I am today that I cannot choose just one. These include Harvard undergraduate advisors; Wharton PhD advisors, committee members internal and external to Wharton, and broader Wharton faculty; my colleagues here at MIT Sloan in the Work and Organization Studies group; as well as mentors and peers across institutions who I have had a chance to connect with during research talks and conferences. Perhaps, if I had to choose just one, I’d start with Richard Hackman who first introduced me to the possibility of being a business school professor when I was an undergraduate.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
They are so smart and entertaining! My friends and family get to hear me boast about my students’ brilliance and humor on a weekly basis during my teaching semester.
What is most challenging?
Making sure each and every student has a voice in class. This is a big priority for me and my teaching team. We want to hear from all students because they are so smart and entertaining.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Motivated
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Tardy
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… having high standards
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Spending quality time with friends and family whether it’s enjoying a relaxed night on a friend’s outdoor patio, hiking a new trail in the area, or trying out a new restaurant (something I admittedly do much less of these days but look forward to resuming).
How will you spend your summer?
I am excited to push research projects forward, and, depending on the state of the pandemic, get some travel in this summer.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: The “North Coast” of Egypt, about an hour west of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea.
Favorite book(s): One book that had a lasting impact was Tuesdays with Morrie.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
There are too many to name, but here are a few from 2020: Ted Lasso for being the touching comedy we needed in a pandemic year; The Last Dance for being truly motivating (its accompanying Spotify playlist is excellent if you’re looking for a motivational boost); and, if a skit from a show is allowed, the “Madame Vivelda” sketch from Saturday Night Live.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I am pretty varied and like to match music to mood. This week, I have been listening to the “80s Throwbacks Hits” list on Spotify.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… opportunities for MBAs to apply their knowledge to solve some of the world’s biggest business challenges including diversity, equity, inclusion, worker well-being, sustainability, etc. MBAs are incredibly bright and have the potential to make a tremendous impact.
In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… incorporating evidence-based practices to improve worker well-being.
I’m grateful for… the health of my students, mentors, colleagues, family, and friends. Last year was a challenging year for many.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Professor Tewfik’s class “Power and Negotiation” is consistently one of the most sought-after and oversubscribed courses in Sloan, and for good reason too. She brings together both practical insights and data-driven research papers to force us to think critically about the dynamics behind negotiations – breaking the larger topic into more granular issues that would never have crossed our mind in that systematic a manner without her experience. She is also very approachable, gently pushing us to book office hours with her – despite the tax this must have on her schedule – with little agenda and no questions asked as to what we might want to discuss with her. Her classes and teaching style strike the perfect balance between pushing you out of your comfort zone through forced weekly negotiations, and helping you discover your native strengths and capitalizing on this in your own technique.”
“Professor Tewfik is one of my favorite professors at Sloan. Her Power & Negotiation class is awesome, and incredibly applicable to real life. She even hosts office hours to help students negotiate their salaries, rent, and offer incredible advice. She is caring, thoughtful, and she somehow MADE learning via Zoom super fun (especially during a 3 hour class)!”
“Professor Tewfik is one of the most highly influential MBA professors of our time. She successfully adapted her class to the virtual setting – truly making it one of the best Power & Negotiations experiences in the school’s history. In a time when in-person classes are deemed superior to virtual, her class was the exception. Not only was Prof Tewfik remarkable in class, she also offered unbounded time with students outside the classroom. She personally provided me with the most valuable job offer advice I have ever received, and did so in under 15 minutes! She continues to be an incredible resource to all her students and truly deserves to be awarded for her commitment and dedication to Sloan students.”
“Professor Tewfik is an incredible instructor for Power and Negotiations at MIT Sloan. She creates a deeply engaging atmosphere for students to not only learn theoretical concepts, but understand the research behind them and practice negotiation scenarios each class, embodying Sloan’s action learning focus. Her dedication to going above and beyond for students showed especially in a remote learning environment where she implemented specific solutions tailored for virtual classes, including running real-time analytics for in-class negotiation debriefs and bringing in Sloan alumni to provide live feedback to students. In addition to her passion for teaching and subject matter knowledge, it is clear that she cares a great deal about students’ success outside the classroom. She took the time to provide me guidance through multiple rounds of negotiation for a full-time offer which resulted in a successful finalized offer. Professor Tewfik has been a transformational part of my business school experience.”
“I have known Professor Tewfik since her first semester as a faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management, just about two years ago now. Her passion for research was immediately palpable, and it is no surprise that her work has garnered awards from numerous top conferences / societies in her field such as Academy of Management, Society of Personality and Social Psychology, and the International Association for Conflict Management. Her novel work on the phenomenon of workplace impostor thoughts also extends beyond academia and has been discussed in major outlets including Vox and the podcast Armchair Expert. Furthermore, Professor Tewfik is always generous with her time and thoughtfully shares her wisdom and research acumen to help others succeed. In addition to being an award-winning researcher at a top-tier business school, Professor Tewfik is truly an invaluable connection for anyone who aspires to learn and grow.”
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