Joshua Margolis and Andy Molinsky: Necessary Evils 

Morela Hernandez interviews Joshua Margolis and Andy Molinsky about a study they recently conducted that examined how individuals performing “necessary evils” respond to the reality of causing harm to others and how different response styles to this experience affect their subsequent treatment of the target of their actions. Investigating the experiences of managers, doctors, police officers, and addiction counselors, Joshua and Andy find that different response styles are dependent on the psychological engagement and disengagement of those performing “necessary evils”.

Joshua Margolis

Joshua Margolis ( ) is an associate professor of business administration in the organizational behavior unit at Harvard Business School. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research focuses on the distinctive ethical challenges that arise in organizations and professional work and how people can meet those challenges with practical effectiveness and moral integrity.

Andy Molinsky

Andy Molinsky ( ) is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research focuses on how people navigate emotionally demanding aspects of their jobs, including necessary evils and cross-cultural interactions.

Recommended further readings:

  • Brockner, J. 2006. Why it’s so hard to be fair. Harvard Business Review, 84: 122-129.
  • Clair, J. A., & Dufresne, R. L. 2004. Playing the grim reaper: How employees experience carrying out a downsizing. Human Relations, 57: 1597-1625. Groopman, J. 2002. Dying words. The New Yorker, October 28: 62-70.
  • Margolis, J.D. & Molinsky, A.L. 2008. Navigating the bind of necessary evils: Psychological engagement and the production of interpersonally sensitive behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 51: 847-872.
  • Molinsky, A.L., & Margolis, J.D. 2005. Necessary evils and interpersonal sensitivity in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 30: 245-268.
  • Molinsky, A.L. & Margolis, J.D. 2006. The emotional tightrope of downsizing: Hidden challenges for leaders and their organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 35: 145-159.

Morela Hermandez

Morela Hernandez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Organization in the Foster Business School at the University of Washington. She can be reached at