Clark Bernier

Clark Bernier's research focuses on organizations coordinating work through means other than central hierarchies of authority. He develops dynamic, micro-foundational accounts of these forms of organizing and investigates whether moving away from official hierarchies of authority mitigates or exacerbates the role that informal status hierarchies play in reproducing social inequalities. To advance these theories, he brings social-psychological mechanisms out of the lab into complex real-life settings, develops new computational social science methods to operationalize theoretical ideas, and grounds these quantitative measures in ethnographic work. His work spans and makes specific contributions to four subfields: social psychology, organizational theory, sociology of culture, and computational social science.

His dissertation, "The Dynamics of Post-Bureaucracy: How Status Shapes Authority in Contemporary Organizations," combines computational and ethnographic methods in a study of the role of relative status in organizations where authority rights---the official right to give orders to a person---are decoupled from official positions. He finds that these organizations use flat authority rights---anyone can make a justifiable request of anyone else---to encourage flexible coordination, foster commitment, and facilitate normative control. However, not everyone is equally willing or able to exercise these rights. Informal status hierarchies shape who exercises authority. People granted rights but lacking high status engage in what he terms "conspicuous forbearance:" they publicly do extra work themselves or find indirect ways to make requests of their coworkers, increasing their status over time. Paradoxically, once they begin to give orders their status plateaus. This project has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Clark is a former software company CTO and holds a patent for automating workflow coordination in large-scale organizations.

More information on his dissertation research and teaching can be found on his website: