The tribe has spoken


8 minute read

Dr Hataya Sibunruang is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management (HRM) at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. 

In 2013, she earned her PhD in Management (Organisational Behaviour) at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE). Prior to her current role, she worked at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia and the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

In this interview, Hataya discusses how watching Survivor, a popular reality TV show, influenced her interest in human behaviour and research study in employee voice, and how her PhD from CBE prepared her for her career. 


Q. Can you tell us about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today?

To date, my career has been highly global and dynamic; I have had the opportunity to live in countries with diverse lifestyles. Through this, I have learned a lot about the similarities and differences of university operations in different places. 

Prior to graduating from CBE with my PhD, I secured my first academic position as a Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour (OB) at the University of Sussex. Through this role, I gained my first leadership position as a Convenor of the Leadership Pathway, which is a specialised program in leadership offered to undergraduate students. I also earned an invaluable opportunity to take part in a university-wide initiative to showcase the significant impact that female academics have made in academia. However, a desire to return to Australia to be closer to my family and friends led me to UQ, where I was a lecturer in HRM. At UQ, I expanded my teaching experience, including through managing and meeting the spectrum of expectations of large student groups. I moved to the University of Waikato in 2020, where I see myself becoming a well-rounded academic with balanced teaching and scholarly responsibilities. So far, all the career decisions I’ve made are based on how I want to see myself as an academic. 


Q. Why have you chosen to focus your research on OB?

I have always been fascinated by human behaviour, especially what triggers people to think, feel and behave in certain ways. When I was young, I binge-watched Survivor, my first favourite reality-TV show. I enjoyed how it unfolded, and watching people’s motives, needs, insecurities and biases play out. When I started university, I found OB enabled me to address this Survivor-induced curiosity about people and human interactions, but in the specific context of the workplace. I first explored this during my Honours year, an experience that shaped my decision to do a PhD at CBE in the same subject. Now, as a full-time academic, I can say that research in OB is moving forward with a countless number of interesting questions to answer, such as why do people not necessarily behave according to how they feel? What are the hidden constraints that may have held us back from doing something?

Q. Can you briefly discuss your recent academic projects on OB?  

Have you ever encountered a situation at work where you have had good ideas to share but for some reason felt held back from speaking your mind? For myself, I can honestly say that I have encountered this quite a few times, especially during work meetings. This is exactly what my current research projects are about – the academic term for it is employee voice. It is an expression of constructive ideas and suggestions for work improvement or, an expression of concerns about certain incidents that can be harmful to work practices and procedures. While considered a productive behaviour that should benefit businesses greatly, such as through organisational learning, knowledge sharing, improved work processes, and error detection and correction, employee voice is not always positively received. Speaking up may be mistaken by others as a complaint or criticism. As a result, many people hold back from expressing their voice and opt to remain silent to avoid any negative repercussions. I have observed such instances many times and in various contexts, and these observations have led me to ask; what enables individuals to feel confident about expressing themselves, and how can they do so effectively? From my initial findings, factors such as the openness of senior-level managers to accept opinions from more junior employees, an individual's personal drive to make improvements, confidence in one’s ability to speak up without the fear of negative repercussions, and the savvy to do so effectively, are all key to promoting employee voice.

Q. How did your PhD at CBE prepare you for your career?

At CBE, I was offered a wide range of opportunities that allowed me to gain an informed understanding of what the world of academia is like, including working on publications with a team of top scholars, networking with both academics and industry professionals, attending major international academic conferences, and teaching. By the time I graduated I already had a clear picture of what my academic career would entail, which helped me transition from being a PhD student to becoming a full-time lecturer. Most importantly, I had a very strong social support network comprising of my supervisors, PhD friends and other professors. The friendly, supportive and inclusive culture at CBE has had a significant positive impact on me as an academic. 


Click here to read more of Hataya’s insights in our Alumni Reflection section.

The College is always keen to explore research collaborations with the public and private sector and to reconnect with alumni. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about partnering with us.