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What she does

Nancy Rothbard, PhD, is the David Pottruck associate professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where she studies organizational behavior. She's interested in how people manage the boundaries between their personal and professional lives, especially when it comes to online social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Negotiating the intersection of home and work is "something people are really struggling with," she says. For example, is it prudent to friend a co-worker, or your boss, on Facebook? Her most recent article on this topic appears in the October 2013 issue of the Academy of Management Review.

Engaging work

Rothbard is also exploring what keeps people engaged at work and what doesn't. "I study what causes people to focus and be absorbed in their work and what detracts from that," she says. One detractor she has identified is "the third party," or someone — say a high-level boss — who barges in on a group, bursting what's known as the employees' "task bubble."

Setting boundaries

Rothbard was led to study workplace boundaries by her involvement in her family's furniture-supply business while growing up in Philadelphia. "In my family's business, the boundaries were really permeable," she says. Longtime employees who weren't family members often brought their personal issues to the workplace. When she began studying organizational behavior, she found that most researchers assumed that people leave their personal lives at the door when they arrive at work. But that's not so, says Rothbard.

A family affair

Today, Rothbard is continuing the tradition of working in an organization that employs many of her family members as well. Rothbard's mother, Aileen Rothbard, is a research faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice and her husband, Brian Bushee, is an accounting professor at the Wharton School. The two met while in graduate school at the University of Michigan.

When she's not at work, Rothbard unwinds with her family, including her two young children, or with a book. "I read everything: science fiction, nonfiction, novels and mysteries. That's my one hobby."

— Robin Tricoles

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