Naomi B. Rothman is an associate professor of management at Lehigh University’s College of Business where she holds the Scott Hartz ’68 Term Professorship.
Naomi is a leading expert in the study of ambivalence - defined as the simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotions (or cognitions) about a single target (i.e., person, situation, object, event, idea). She has demonstrated the value of ambivalence for individual and team performance in multiple professional and social settings.
Through her research, Naomi examines the cultural norms and values organizations and teams can employ to harness the benefits of ambivalence and avoid the liabilities. She has found that when individuals express ambivalence in negotiations and teams, ambivalence can unleash higher levels of innovative, integrative problem solving; cultivating more effective collaboration. Teams that are cooperative, interdependent, and supportive of others speaking up are more likely to realize these benefits of ambivalence.
Additionally, Naomi has shown that individuals and leaders who experience ambivalence, even for short periods of time, make more accurate decisions and inspire stronger team level performance on complex projects. Why? Because ambivalence cultivates open mindedness. For instance, she has demonstrated that ambivalence increases advice seeking from peers, information seeking from teams, receptivity to alternative perspectives, and that it reduces defensiveness to feedback. In turn, individual and team performance improve.
Naomi has written on these topics in numerous academic journals and her research has been covered in various media outlets including New York Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, BBC, National Public Radio. She was interviewed by Shankar Vedantam of Hidden Brain Podcast in 2022 about her research on ambivalence.
Among other awards, in 2017, Naomi was the recipient of the Carl & Ingelborg Beidleman Research Award in Business and Economics at Lehigh University, and 40 Best Undergraduate Business School Professors Under 40, Poets & Quants. Naomi teaches the undergraduate Leadership course to Lehigh Business School undergraduates and has developed and taught leadership courses for the Part-Time MBA program and the executive education program at Lehigh University. She has experience conducting workshops with organizations such as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and the Positive Organizations Consortium through the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations. She was Division Chair of the Managerial and Organizational Cognition Division of the Academy of Management in 2020-2021.
Naomi holds a B.A. in Sociology from UC Davis (Highest Honors and Phi Beta Kappa), where she earned a Citation for Outstanding Performance based on her Senior Honors Thesis. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from New York University, Stern School of Business. Prior to joining Lehigh, Naomi served as an Assistant Professor at the College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.