2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Charmi Patel, University of Reading, Henley Business School

Charmi Patel

University of Reading, Henley Business School

“Charmi has been one of the best professors for our global exec MBA Managing People course. She designed the course and curriculum keeping in mind the practice-based aspect. In fact, her toolkits can give McKinsey a run for their money. The most novel aspect of her course and teaching has been using design thinking principles for managing organizations and people. Her experience, zest for knowledge, and passion for OB is unparalled. She deserves this more than anybody I know.” — Gillian Channer

Charmi Patel, 35, is Associate Professor in International Human Resource Management at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School. She is also a senior fellow of the U.K.’s Higher Education Academy.

Her research focuses on how individuals relate to their work, occupations and organizations, within the context of human resource management and organizational behavior. She has published articles in leading scholarly journals including the Human Resource Management, Human Resource Management Journal, Journal of World Business, Journal of Business Research, Human Resource Management Review, Applied Psychology: An International Review, International Journal of Human Resource Management, and European Journal of International Management. Her work has been covered by media outlets such as HR Magazine, People Management (CIPD), Hays Journal as well as Forbes, Embrace HR, GMR Consulting, Legal-Island and others. Recently she was also interviewed by BBC Radio on the Side-Hustle Economy.

She serves on the editorial board of Journal of Business and Psychology and is guest editing a special issue on “Presenteeism at work” at the Journal of Organizational Behavior.


At current institution since what year?  2016

Education: PhD in Work and Organizational Psychology and MSc in Human Resource Management at Aston Business School, U.K.  BA (Hons) in Sociology and Developmental Anthropology, Sophia College, University of Mumbai, India. Chartered Occupational Psychologist (CPsych). 

List of MBA courses you currently teach:  Managing People; Engaging Employees; Strategic Talent Management; Leading and Developing People


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I had no clue that academia could be a career too! In 2007, when I was offered a chance to do my PhD at Aston, my then MSc supervisor (who also ended up being my PhD supervisor) Professor Pawan Budhwar (now, Head of School, Aston Business School) shed light on academia as a full-time career option. The idea that academic research had potential to impact management practice whilst shaping the workforce of the future was exciting and invigorating. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I research on Presenteeism- the issue of going to work when one shouldn’t because of illness/injury or other medical conditions (both physical and mental). It’s about one’s attendance motivation and how it impacts employee’s relationship with their work, peers, superiors as well as their significant other. More importantly, my co-authors and I have been exploring why, how, and when does presenteeism occur and under what conditions does presenteeism flourish i.e., what contextual and relational factors attenuate its occurrence and its impact. In doing so, my focus has been on how and which HRM practices can help organizations to simultaneously generate economic value and enhance the well-being of their employees. More recently with my co-authors, I’ve started to work on understanding how existing social network ties can perpetuate the underrepresentation of minorities in leadership positions. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… Ahh, if things had worked out differently, I’d be making my living as a documentary filmmaker or a Sitar player. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I guess, it’s about knowing the pulse of my executive/MBA students. Cognitively as well as relationally, I try to see things from their perspective, in order to demonstrate how and why state of art research could help their organizations, employees and themselves make a difference. I guess instead of simply translating research to practice, I try and co-create academic/practitioner collaboration. In doing so, I’ve learned the meaning and relevance of research from my exec/MBA students. In fact, most of my recent research collaborations/projects are a product of such meaningful interactions. 

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Passionate, full of energy (but deep inside a bundle of nerves haha!)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That there is a lot of stakeholder management in terms of the work beyond publishing/teaching/grading. A lot of what we can/cannot do is governed by stakeholders at each level of the business school/university hierarchy. Also, one is always multitasking, and engaging in many roles, some are at stark contrast with others but effectively managing them is one of the most important skills one can learn from academia. 

Professor I most admire and why:  Such a difficult question, so many at so many different junctures of my career/life. From my school teachers, Pragya and Mukesh Shukla, Arundhati Hoskeri who led the foundation of teaching/translating knowledge keeping in mind the audience, to my university professors, Anagha Tendulkar, Rashna Poncha, Swarupa Kamath (Sophia College, University of Mumbai) and more recently Professor Candace Jones, Professor Brian Main (University of Edinburgh Business School) and Professor Pawan Budhwar (Aston Business School). Each one of them has had such a positive impact on my teaching philosophy and pedagogy development. One thing common amongst them all is pushing the boundaries of academia’s Ivory tower to make a difference in the world through their research and teaching.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Learning from one another. Teaching business students is basically collaborating with a practitioner. The every day tensions/paradoxes from their lived/work experience(s) to create meaning/relevance whilst paying attention to the polarities to generate knowledge related to intractable social and environmental issues, is stimulating to say the least. 

What is most challenging? Unfortunately, many executives and business students are looking for a precise blueprint to address any given situation. A two-by-two matrix that helps solve every puzzle out there. Sadly, there is no such thing; the whole purpose is to provide them with frameworks and evidence that will help them leverage, analyze, and complement their work experiences and knowledge bases. It is about providing them with a platform to engage, reason, debate and push the boundaries of their cognitive schemas.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Someone who’s not afraid to go outside their comfort zone in order to grow and develop their skills.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disengaged and/or entitled.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…difficult to please but fair and developmental.


What are your hobbies? Street photography (I have a collection of black and white street photographs from my serendipitous interactions with strangers, someday I’ll put them together for an exhibition); and playing Sitar.

How will you spend your summer? Traveling to see family and friends, hopefully!

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Tough one, right now it’s Bhutan.

Favorite book(s): Uh, where does one even begin, to name a few all-time favorites –The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand; Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Love of Stones by Tobias Hill, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson, all of Thomas Hardy’s work that I’ve read and reread many times, and Elif Shafak’s novels as well.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Again, too many, but to name a few- Eternal sunshine of the spotless mindmust have seen it like 200 times; Wild Pear Tree by Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Bhumika by Shyam Benagal (in fact any movie by Shyam Benagal). 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Indian classical (Sitar and instrumental mainly) and Jazz (I’ve been secretly accumulating old vinyl records for a while now!)


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… a more interventionist approach, instead of just an analytical one. Seek and create safe, supportive, and empowering spaces for all. It’s all about collective growth and collective healing.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…Owing up to the responsibility of making this world a better place. I see organizations and companies as ‘designers’ of a better world. They have the responsibility as well as the opportunity to resolve the social and environmental problems we face today.

I’m grateful for… the amazing network of support that has got me through the bumpy roads and heavy winds- first and foremost my mum (what I am and whatever I’ll be is all thanks to her), my aunts (especially Sonal and Chetna), friends (Kriti, Mariam, Jiahui, Jasmien, and Daisy), colleagues (Chris Shern, Anne Dibley) and all my collaborators (too many to name) and most importantly my students- here’s to each one of you.


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