Adjunct professor witnesses Greece’s monetary crisis firsthand

July 06, 2015
Evelina Atanassova

Evelina Atanassova

Evelina Atanassova, an adjunct professor in the School of Business and Professional Studies, was in Greece last week, just in time for their historic vote on whether to accept a bailout offer from its Euro Zone creditors. We emailed her a few questions about what she was doing in Greece and what she was observing thanks to a suggestion from Diana Cabori, senior manager of Community and Corporate Relations at Brandman.

I understand that you’re presenting some of your research. Could you explain what the research is on, why it took you to Athens this summer?

My research interests focus on social networks and social capital. I am particularly interested in how and when social networks and social relations serve as a social capital, which business professionals can utilize in pursue of job achievements.

I am currently attending EGOS (European Group for Organization Studies) 2015 Colloquia in Athens, Greece. In the field of organization theory, this is probably the most important conference. It attracts scholars not only from European business schools, but also from American. What differentiates this conference from others is the strong emphasis on providing and receiving feedback. It’s a unique opportunity to present your current research and receive comments, suggestions and ideas from other scholars in your field as well as learn about novel research topics. I got accepted to the conference with a paper that looks at the contingent value of social capital. This is a conceptual piece, in which I propose a novel categorization of the social capital forms and argue that these categories allow for more rigorous prediction of the value of social networks and social relations to individual job achievements, such as performance, salary, rank or influence. I presented my research Thursday and I am very excited to share that I received very positive feedback and initiated interesting discussions.

Are you currently working on a Ph.D. and if so, from where, and what is the focus?

Yes, I am in the fourth year of my doctoral studies. I’m doing a Ph.D. in management at HEC Paris, one of the top business schools in Europe. My dissertation is aligned with my research interests. It consists of three articles each of which is taking a different angle to investigate the contingent value of social capital to business professionals. The first article is the one I presented here. In it I develop four categories of social capital and I look at organizational context factors to predict the value of those categories to individual job achievements. The second article investigates how these four forms of social capital relate to each other and what is “the social capital path to performance” or what type of social structure or relations will predict individual job performance. While in the first two pieces I am looking at social capital from a structuralist perspective, in the third one I adopt an agency view and I’m looking at how individuals actually manage their networks to take stock of their social capital. My research will have important implications for business professionals as it will prescribe what networking strategies should be adopted in congruence with the organizational context the individuals find themselves in and the professional goals they pursue.

What do you teach at Brandman and how does it relate to your research?

I started to work for Brandman in March 2014 with OL615 Organizational Development and Change. Based on the feedback I consistently receive from my students, I was later trusted with OL600 Organizational Leadership, OL 601 Organization Ethics, and OL501 Research Methods. I am very excited about the last one. Organization research is my passion and what I do for living and I’ve been trying to get this course for quite a while. I finally got the opportunity to teach it last semester and experimented with a new experiential approach that required students to critically analyze each other’s ideas and progress from day one, to deliver weekly results, and to continuously challenge their own assumptions. I had an amazing experience with this course and was very proud by the tremendous progress demonstrated by each student. As always, I’m looking forward to their feedback and how they felt about the course. And while on the topic, I want to take the opportunity to thank all my students for taking the time to not only fill out the student opinion surveys, but also provide detailed feedback, which is so important to me as I strive to continuously improve my teaching skills and deliver in congruence with my students’ needs.

What is the mood like in Athens? Have you been affected by the protests? By the availability (or lack of availability) of money?

You will be surprised but if you don’t watch TV you would never guess there is a crisis in Greece. People are calm, smiling and very friendly. Life seems to go on as usual. I know that there are protests every night but because of my conference duties I didn’t have the chance to see them or hear them. They are peaceful and there is no violence going on. The only weird thing are the queues in front of the cash machines. Every morning I go to work I see those everywhere. It’s very important to know however that the 60 euro withdrawal limit is only for the owners of debit cards which are for Greek accounts. If you have a card issued in any other country, there is no limit or problem to access your money.

Have you been to Greece before and, if so, how do people seem compared to previous visits? 

I’ve been in Greece twice before, both times in Chalcidice – the famous and popular resort peninsulas in northern Greece. People seem as nice and friendly as I remember them. Overall, I don’t think people are desperate for more euro per se; rather they are afraid they cannot take more restrictions and find the austerity measures unbearable.

Will you be there for the referendum on Sunday? What do you expect the outcome to be – what do you hear from your hosts, friends, colleagues?

As a social networks expert you might guess I’m personally very social. I’ve been talking to all Greeks I meet – colleagues at the conference, waiters, hotel administration, etc. A common thread I observe is that everyone is going to vote on Sunday and everyone has already made the decision. People are either strongly against the proposed measures or convinced that they have to accept them to keep their current position in the union. I believe however that the results from the referendum will be in favor of “no.” I arrived in the country on the historical Tuesday when Greece defaulted on the loan to the IMF, and leave on Sunday where chances are the referendum would write a new page of the history. I’m very interested to see what will happen.

Update sent Monday: 

On Friday the whole city center was closed and I had to walk to the conference dinner event. My route fell on the road of the “Nei” (“Yes”) demonstration so I got the opportunity to experience it and even joined them for 10 minutes. This demonstration was very peaceful. There were kids, music and food and people walking with the “Nei” sign. The other demonstration, which had a different designated route was more violent and the police had to interfere.

Well, now we know the results … Let’s hope for the best to all.

How do you think this will affect other visitors?

Unfortunately Greece already feels the pressure with tons of cancellations for the season. Even in my panel there were scholars who decided not to enter the country because of what is going on. This is such a pity! When they need money most, their main economy suffers. I want to emphasize however that tourists should not be worried at all – the customer services is outstanding, the food – delicious, the resorts – beautiful and waiting to embrace their visitors.

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