Academic Positions

  • 2013-Present: Assistant Professor
    University of Minnesota- Twin Cities

    Carlson School of Management

    Work & Organizations Group

    Graduate Faculty of the Department of Applied Economics and Minnesota Population Center (MPC)

Education

  • 2013: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management
    Ph.D., Management, Institute for Work & Employment Research
    Dissertation: “Sustained Rents and Imperfect Labor Markets: Essays on Recruitment, Training, Job Mobility, and Incentives”
    Chairs: David Autor (MIT Economics) and Paul Osterman (MIT Sloan)
  • 2007: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations
    B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations (Honors)
    Thesis Title: “A Game Theoretic Approach to Social Dialogue”
    Oxford University, Pembroke College
    Exchange student in Economics and Management, 2005-2006

Publications

Works in Progress

  • Benson, Alan, Simon Board, and Moritz Meyer-ter-vehn. "Discrimination in Hiring: Evidence from Retail Sales." Under revision at Review of Economic Studies.
  • Manchester, Colleen, Alan Benson, and J. Myles Shaver. "Dual careers and the willingness to consider employment in startup ventures." Under revision at Strategic Management Journal
  • Benson, Alan, and Louis-Pierre LePage. "The Emergence of Hiring Discrimination." Working paper.
  • Benson, Alan, Danielle Li, and Kelly Shue. "Potential and the Gender Promotion Gap." Working paper. 
  • Sajjadiani, Sima, John Kammeyer-Mueller, and Alan Benson. "Organizational Context, Staffing Events, and Work Outcomes: A Dynamic Analysis Approach." Working paper.

Fellowships and Honors

  • 2020 Carlson School of Management Teaching Award
  • 2020 Herbie Award for Excellence in Teaching (top instructor by vote from Master's students)
  • 2019, Upjohn Institute Early Career Research Award and grant
  • 2018, Best paper award at Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) workshop on Incentives, Management, and Organization (IMO) in Milan, for "Promotions and the Peter Principle."
  • 2018, John Dunlop Outstanding Young Scholar Award, from LERA
  • 2018, Giarrantini Rising Star Award, from Industry Studies Association
  • 2018, Herbie Award for Excellence in Teaching (top instructor by vote from Master's students)
  • 2017, Second prize, best research paper competition, from Wharton People Analytics Conference, for "Hemming and Hawing over Hawthorne” (retitled "A Numbers Game")
  • 2017, Best paper award, LERA/ ILR Review Best Paper Competition, for "Are Bonus Pools Driven by their Incentive Effects?"
  • 2017, Best paper award, Financial Institutions, Regulation, and Corporate Governance conference in Sydney, Australia, for “Promotions and the Peter Principle.”
  • 2016, Teaching Innovation Grant from Timothy J. Nantell Fund for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2014, Outstanding Research Award and Grant, from MPC
  • 2014, SOBACO Small Grant
  • 2013, LERA Best Dissertation Award (Kochan-Sleigh Award)
  • 2012, Russell Sage Co-PI, “Is College Still Worth It?”
  • 2012, 64th LERA Meetings of the ASSA, Winner of Best Doctoral Student Paper
  • 2008-2013, Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
  • 2007-2008, MIT Presidential Graduate Fellowship
  • 2007, Best senior thesis (Joel Seidman Memorial Prize), for “A Game Theoretic Approach to Social Dialogue”
  • 2007, Service to ILR School award (Irving M. Ives Award)
  • 2007, Golden Key Outstanding Membership Award for Community Service
  • 2005-2007, Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholarship
  • 2004-2006, Undergraduate Academic Research Fellowship

Invited Talks

  • 2021: ASSA/LERA in Chicago, IL.
  • 2020: AEA annual meeting in San Diego, CA; LERA winter meeting in San Diego, CA. LERA annual meeting in Portland, OR; Industry Studies Association meeting in Boston, MA. Postponed due to Covid-19:  Queens University Smith School of Business, Organizational Economics workshop in Ontario, Canada. 
  • 2019: AEA annual meeting in Atlanta, GA (organizer, presenter); Wharton School of Business Management department seminar in Philadelphia, PA; UBC Sauder CIRA workshop in Vancouver, BC; Academy of Management Meetings in Boston, MA; Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics (SITE) workshop "Micro and Macro of Labor Markets" in Palo Alto, CA
  • 2018: INFORMS Organization Science Winter Conference (OSWC) in Park City, UT; University of Toronto Center for Industrial Relations and Human Resources seminar; MIT Sloan School of Management Organizational Economics seminar, Cambridge, MA; Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, MA; Industry Studies Association (ISA) Meetings in Seattle, WA (Giarrantini Rising Star Award); Society of Institutional and Organizational Economics (SIOE) in Montreal, Quebec; Labor and Employment Relations (LERA) meetings in Baltimore, MD (Dunlop Young Scholar award); NBER Summer Institute, Personnel Economics section, in Cambridge, MA; Academy of Management meetings (AOM) panel "The Analytics of Careers" in Chicago, IL; Advances in Field Experiments (AFE) conference at Boston University
  • 2017: INFORMS Organization Science Winter Conference (OSWC) in Park City, UT; MIT Sloan School of Management Institute for Work and Employment Research seminar, Cambridge, MA; Utah Winter Business Economics Conference (WBEC) in Snowbird, UT; Strategy department seminar of the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St Louis, MO; Midwest Economics Association (MEA) Conference in Cincinnati, OH; Wharton People Analytics Conference (two papers presented as finalists in research paper competition) in Philadelphia, PA; Northwestern Law School Searle Center Conference on Internet Commerce and Innovation in Chicago, IL; Western Economics Association (WEA) meetings in San Diego, CA; Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) meetings in Anaheim, CA (competitive papers presenter; PhD consortium panelist; Jr Faculty Consortium organizer); Academy of Management (AOM) Meetings (OMT/ OB/ HR/ CAR divisions) in Atlanta, GA; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Labor and Employment Relations; HEC Montreal Department of Economics
  • 2016 Society of Labor Economists (SOLE) meetings in Seattle, WA; MIT Sloan School of Management Institute for Work and Employments Research seminar, Cambridge, MA; Industry Studies Association (ISA) meetings in Minneapolis, MN; Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) meetings in Minneapolis, MN; Finance and Retail Analytics Conference hosted by Minneanalytics in Minneapolis, MN; People and Organizations conference at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (plenary and roundtable); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Conference on Corporate Finance, Cambridge, MA; NBER Conference on Organizational Economics, Cambridge, MA
  • 2015 Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) meetings in Boston, MA; Society of Labor Economists (SOLE) meeting in Minneapolis, MN; Midwest Economics Association Meetings in Minneapolis, MN; People Analytics Conference at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, PA (Third Prize in Research Paper Competition); joint meeting of Society of Labor Economists and European Association of Labour Economists (SOLE/EALE) in Montreal, Canada; National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) Summer Institute personnel economics section in Cambridge, MA; Wharton School of Business Conference on People and Organizations (plenary and roundtable)
  • 2014 Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) Meetings in Philadelphia, PA (three sessions: "Dissecting Job Search," "What Impact do Managers Really Have?" and "Employment Structure and Inequality"); MIT Organizational Economics Lunch in Boston, MA; MIT Conference on Digital Experimentation (CODE@MIT) in Boston, MA; Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) meetings in Segovia, Spain
  • 2013 65th LERA Meetings in St. Louis (Winner- Best Dissertation), Summer 2013; University of Chicago Booth School of Business Organizations and Markets Seminar; University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management; Case Western Reserve University, Department of Economics; Duke University, Fuqua School of Business; Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Labor and Employment Relations; London Business School, Trans-Atlantic Doctoral Conference; Cornell University, Institute for Compensation Research
  • 2012 Wharton School of Business Conference on People and Organizations (Plenary); MIT Economics Applied Microeconomics Lunch; Rutgers University, School of Management and Labor Relations; University of Maryland, Smith School of Business; Best Student Paper Competition Finalist Talk (Winner) at the 64th LERA Meetings
  • 2011 Wharton School of Business Conference on People and Organizations (Plenary); Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations; MIT IWER Seminar; MIT Economics Labor Lunch; American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas; Academy of Management Annual Meeting in San Antonio; Mondragone-La Pietra-Moncalieri (MOOD) Doctoral Workshop in Economic Theory & Econometrics at the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) in Rome, Italy; IWAEE Conference in Catanzaro, Italy; London Business School Transatlantic Doctoral Conference; American Rights at Work (ARAW) Conference at Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
  • 2010 MIT Sloan Economic Sociology Working Group Seminar; MIT Sloan IWER Seminar; MIT Economics Labor Lunch
  • 2009 Wharton School of Business Conference on People and Organizations; MIT Economics Labor Lunch

Non-Academic Professional Presentations

  • On negotiations: "Preparing for Pay Negotiations" Workshop for Twin Cities Compensation Network; "Lean In" Workshop on Negotiations for Hennepin County (Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs); Negotiation workshop for EpiCH; University of Minnesota P&A Professional Development Workshop, “The Principles of Interest Based Bargaining” and "The Practice of Interest Based Bargaining;" Minnesota Business Partnership EA Conference, “Negotiations and Our Career;” Carlson MBA Women’s Initiative seminars on pay negotiations, 2015 and 2016
  • On people analytics in sales: Minneanalytics Finance and Retail Conference (FARCON) 2016; WorldatWork 2014 Spotlight on Sales presentation, “From Salesman to Sales Manager- Using Big Data to Debunk Common Sales Manager Myths and Improve Productivity;” WorldatWork 2013 Spotlight on Sales Compensation presentation, “Panning the Big Sales Data Goldmine;” Twin Cities Compensation Network presentation "Promotions and the Peter Principle"

Media

  • ABC Radio National (Australia) - Richard Aedy's "The Peter Principle is Real," 6/30/18
  • Baltimore Sun - Dan Rodrick's "Questioning wage law built on kindness of strangers: Wondering how we got a separate base for tipped workers," 4/18/14
  • BBC - David Robson's "The reasons why people become incompetent at work," 6/15/20
  • BBC Business Daily- Ed Butler's "Why are so many bosses incompetent?" 6/25/20
  • Bloomberg - "Good employee vs good boss," 02/20/18
  • Boca Raton Tribune - Rick Boxx's "Pitfalls of the Peter Principle," 12/3/18
  • Boston Herald - Jack Encarnaco's "Tuition spikes send higher education enrollment tumbling," 08/31/17
  • Business Insider - Ian Salisbury's "Economists have uncovered a counterintuitive truth about why so many bosses are terrible," 3/1/18
  • Business Radio (Wharton) - Interview with Prof. Peter Cappelli for radio show "In the Workplace," 6/7/18
  • BusinessWorld - Jemy Gatuda's "Why incompetents are elected or promoted," 1/24/19
  • BuzzFeed - Caroline O'Donovan's "American Labor Unions are Falling Down on Digital Workers," 7/24/15
  • CBS News Radio San Francisco - Interview with Chris Filippi, 11/30/14
  • CBS/ WCCO News - "Why has pay for U.S. workers stayed relatively flat?," 7/10/17
  • CBS/WCCO News - "Should you discuss salaries with co-workers?" 11/29/18
  • CBS/WCCO News - Paul and Jordana Show, "Why hasn't pay kept up with productivity?" 9/6/18
  • CFO - David McCann's "Be wary of of promoting top sales reps," 2/26/18
  • Chicago Booth Review - Alex Verkhivker's "The best salespeople don't make the best managers," 7/12/17
  • Chronicle of Higher Education - Scott Carlson's "Is college worth it? Two reports say yes (mostly)," 11/4/13
  • Continental Telegraph - Tim Worstall's "Not that we ever doubted it, but the Peter Principle is correct," 4/23/19
  • Cowboy State Daily - Ellen Fike's "Wyoming Ranks 47th in Employment Recovery: Unemployment Claims Up by 900% in One Year" 8/13/2020
  • Deseret News - Eric Schultz's "College is 'Worth It,' but Majors Matter," 3/4/15
  • Die Welt ("German: The World") - von Inga Michler's "Warum viele Firmen systematisch die Falschen befördern." ("Why many companies systematically promote the wrong people"), 3/28/18
  • Discovery News - Emily Sohn's "Is College 'Worth It'?" 10/16/15
  • The Economist - "The Promotion Curse," 6/16/19
  • Economisch Statistische Berichten (Netherlands) - "Reputatie als tegengas in de sjeeseconomie," 1/30/16
  • EU CEDEFOP (European Center for the Development of Vocational Training) - "New forms of work and shady employers: How reputation can discipline the gig economy”3/2/16
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - Doug Clement's "In the Gig Economy, Reputation Counts," 2/6/19
  • Foundation for Economic Education - Alex Tabarrok's "The Peter Principle Tested," 5/6/19
  • Financial Times - Tim Harford's "We should not let bad managers stick around," 7/19/18
  • Financial Times - Sir Cary Cooper's "Don't Let Ambition Cloud our Talent Judgment," 8/3/18
  • Forbes - Rodd Wagner's "New Evidence the Peter Principle is Real, and What to Do About It," 4/10/18
  • Forbes - Bill Conerly's "Promoting Wrong People Hurts Retention and Productivity," 6/19/18
  • Forbes - Kathy Caprino's "Six Behaviors that will Block Your Leadership Success," (Peter Principle link), 2/2/19
  • Forbes (Mexico) - Diego Vallarino's "El Principio de Peter: promover a los incapaces," 3/6/19
  • Fox9 News - "Target Expands Paid Family Leave, Backup Care Benefits for Store Workers," 6/10/19
  • Grand Forks Herald - Ethan Nelson's "In ND, New Overtime Rule Will Have Bigger Effect Than in Minnesota," 6/11/16
  • Granted - Adam Grant's "Wondering," 5/18
  • Harvard Business Review - Alan Benson, Kelly Shue, and Danielle Li's "Do people really get promoted to their level of incompetence?" 3/8/18
  • Harvard Business Review - Andris Zoltners, Probhakant Sinha, and Sally Lorimer's "Why New Sales Managers Need More Training," 3/14/19
  • Harvard Business Review - Josh Bersin and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic's "Hire Leaders for What They Can Do, Not What They Have Done," 8/28/19
  • Het Financieele Dagblad (Netherlands) - Jasper Lukkezen's "Zeemeeuwmanagement" 6/1/19
  • Here We Are - Podcast interview with Shane Moss, "Episode 180: Robots and Employment," 8/24/18
  • HR Executive - Mark McGraw's "Gender and the Global Mobility Gap," 4/20/15
  • HR Executive - Peter Cappelli's "Promoting the Wrong Talent," 6/11/18
  • HRzone - Jan Hill's "Why HR needs to stop promoting based on the Peter Principle," 12/17/18
  • Inside Sources - Michael Graham's "In Wake of 'Side Door' College Admissions Scandal, Americans Ask: Is College Worth It?" 3/14/19
  • IZA Newsroom - "New forms of work and shady employers: How reputation can discipline the gig economy," 2/18/16
  • KARE 11 News (NBC-affiliated TV station serving Twin Cities) - Kent Erdahl's "Retailers Announce trips, bonuses to find holiday workers," 10/8/18
  • KELO News Radio - "Minnesota Joins States Bolstering Wage Theft Enforcement," 12/24/19
  • Knowledge@Wharton - "Are Good Managers Born or Made?" 3/15/16
  • Knowledge@Wharton - "Holiday Hiring: Can Retailers Attract Talent in a Tight Labor Market?" 11/15/18
  • KNSI Radio - Jennifer Lewerenz's, "Minnesota's Wage Theft Law See's Challenges in Understanding," 2/2/20
  • LA Times - Op Ed, "How to manage the financial risks of investing in college," 12/25/13
  • Le Nouvele Economiste (France) - Tim Hartford's, "Principe de Peter : nous ne devrions pas laisser les mauvais managers s’éterniser dans leur poste," 10/8/18
  • Les Affaires (Quebec) - "Votre boss est un incompétent? Voici pourquoi!" 5/6/19
  • LinkedIn Pulse - Sue Barrett's "The alarming findings of the Peter Principle and Sales Managers," 5/28/18
  • Malcolm Gladwell's podcast Revisionist History - Interview with Malcolm Gladwell, "Hamlet was Wrong" 8/6/20
  • Marginal Revolution - Alex Tabarrok's "The Peter Principle Tested," 5/1/19
  • Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal - Patrick Rehkamp's "Minneapolis Park Board's Ill-Timed Goodbye Gifts," 1/15/16
  • MIT Sloan Management Review - Marc Zao-Sanders's "The Downstream Damage of the Leadership Skill Gap," 8/28/19
  • Naked Capitalism - Yves Smith's "Promotions and the Peter Principle," 4/25/19
  • National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) - Jay Fitzgerald's "The Peter Principle Isn't Just Real, It's Costly," 5/18
  • NBC News - "College Costs Soar, but Can You Afford Not to Go?" 4/15/15
  • NPR Morning Edition/ The Hidden Brain - Shankur Vindantam's "Why Is Your Boss Bad At His Job? It May Be The Peter Principle At Work" 4/3/18
  • NY Times - Sendhil Mullainathan's "You've become rich. That doesn't mean you're great at everything." 10/26/18.
  • PBS Newshour - Article and TV mention, "6 Rules to Help You Make the Best College Decision", 1/14/15
  • Public News Service - "Minnesota Joins States Bolstering Wage-Theft Enforcement," 2/2/20
  • Quartz - Corinne Purtill's "Your hotshot coworker would be a terrible boss, and research proves it," 2/26/18
  • Quartz - Quartz Obsession "The Peter Principle," 3/2/18
  • Quotable (Salesforce.com article) - Kevin Micalizzi's "Why you might not want to promote your top sales rep," 8/14/18
  • Quotable (Salesforce.com podcast) - Kevin Micalizzi's "The best sellers do not make the best managers," 11/1/18
  • Smart Company - Sue Barrett's "The alarming findings of the Peter Principle and sales managers," 5/28/18
  • Sydney Morning Herald - Sendhil Mullainathan's "You've become rich. That doesn't mean you're great at everything." 11/1/18
  • Technology Policy Institute - "Research Roundup Strikes Back," 1/12/16
  • The Globe and Mail (Canada) - Harvey Schachter's "Why promotions go awry," 4/14/18
  • The Times (of London/ the Sunday Times) - Grainne Rothery's "Why top dogs might baulk at the lead," 3/11/18
  • Thrive Global (Arianna Huffington's media company) - Nora Battelle's "How to handle the stress of a bad boss," 10/17/18
  • Thrive Global - Mallory Straton's "5 ways to support a colleague through a health scare," 3/8/19
  • Thrive Global - Elizabeth Yuko's "5 things everyone should do in their 20s to get ahead in their career," 3/27/19
  • Thrive Global - Ian Burke's "How to overcome deadline dread," 4/17/19
  • Time - Ian Salisbury's "Why Bosses Are Bad, According to Management Experts," 2/22/18
  • Twin Cities Business Journal - Kate Lerette's, "Degree Inflation" 9/1/17
  • Twin Cities Business Journal - Amanda Ostuni's "Targeting Employee Benefits," 10/7/19
  • Twin Cities Business Magazine - Gene Rebeck's "The IT Workforce Quandry," 5/7/19
  • Wall Street Journal - David Wessel's "How college has become a risky investment," 1/28/15
  • Wall Street Journal - Lauren Weber's "Why it's so hard to fill sales jobs: 'Salesman' baggage means well-paying tech industry positions go begging," 2/3/15
  • Wall Street Journal - Sam Walker's "Why Superstars Make Lousy Bosses," 11/6/18
  • WalletHub - Adam McCann's "States Hit Most by Unemployment Insurance Claims," 6/4/20
  • Washington Post - Dina ElBoghdady's "Why couples move for a man's job, but not a woman's," 11/28/14
  • Washington Post - Danielle Paquette's "Why college isn't always worth it: A new study suggests the economic return on a college degree may be a lot more modest than you might think," 1/30/15
  • Yahoo!News - Greg McKenna's "This study shows why companies should not always promote high achievers into management roles" 10/10/19
  • Zenefits - Lynne Marioka's "What the ABC Test Means for the Gig Economy: An Interview with Alan Benson," 6/19/2018

Service

  • Refereeing: American Economic Review, Demography, Economic Inquiry, ILR Review, Industrial Relations, Journal of Economic Growth, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Management Science, Manufacturing Service and Operations Management, National Science Foundation, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Organization Science, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies
  • PhD advising: Sima Sajjadiani, 2018 (initial placement: Assistant Professor, Sauder School of Business at the Univ. of British Columbia)
  • Dissertation committees: Sergio Salgado Ibanez, 2019 (chair, Economics PhD, initial placement: Assistant Professor, Wharton at UPenn); Arun Kandanchatha, 2017 (Economics PhD, initial placement PwC), Luiz Diez Catalan, 2018 (Economics PhD, initial placement: BBVA Research in Spain), Sinafikeh Gemessa, 2019 (Applied Economics PhD, initial placement: UN-IFAD postdoc), Marianna Urbina Ramirez, 2019 (Applied Economics PhD, initial placement: Demographer at UN)
  • Service teaching: Managing Employee Compensation on Coursera
  • Conferences: Organizer for 2016 and 2017 LERA Jr Faculty Consortiums, 2018 Mitsui Labor-Finance conference
  • Department and university service: PhD Program Committee 2013-2016, 2019-2020; People Analytics Committee 2015-2016; Department of Work and Organizations Executive Committee 2017-2018; HRIR Master's program committee 2018-2020; Applied Economics Graduate Faculty, 2013-present (e.g. writing annual qualifying exams, serving on commitees for oral exams, dissertation defenses, fellowship awards and nominations, etc); advisor and awards committee for Carlson senior honors theses

Teaching

Instructor

  • 2014-current: Compensation and Benefits (Masters)
  • 2014 -current: Negotiation Strategies (MBA)
  • 2013-current: Economic Analysis for HRIR (PhD).

Online

Teaching Highlights
  • From Spring 2016 - 2019, I taught 12 classes, and their average student rating was 5.81/6.00. The top quartile of Carlson grad classes starts at 5.70
  • Voted by HRIR Master's students as top instructor in 2018 and 2020
  • By October 2020, 25,571 Coursera learners had enrolled in Managing Employee Compensation, with has an average rating of 4.7/5.0 among 1,172 raters