Common Method Bias in Academic Papers: Cause for Rejection or No Big Deal?

Aditya Simha received rejection after rejection on the grounds of Common Method Bias—so he wrote an article about it. Simha reflects below on the motivation behind that article, “Noblesse OBlige—An Entreaty to Stop Using Common-Method Bias as a Carnwennan of Carnage,” recently published in Group & Organization Management.

What motivated you to pursue this research?

I was running into an issue on many of my papers in which the reviewers or the editor would reject the paper due to “Common Method Bias” (CMB). I tried to address the issue, but no matter how hard I tried to reduce common method bias, my papers were still rejected. It felt like a lazy route of rejection – sort of like, “Ah, I have nothing concrete to reject you with, so let me use the leaden crutch of CMB.” To me, rejecting a paper just for CMB feels akin to a situation where a surgeon advocates amputation of a limb because of a skin tag. I did not think it fair for reviewers or editors to reject papers on trivial objections, especially because so many articles have shown that CMB is not as monstrous an issue as people make it out to be. I wanted to write an article that could be used by people to help protect their work from getting blithely rejected due to CMB concerns.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

There wasn’t any specific external event to pinpoint here. I had encountered the rejections due to CMB issues one time too many and had discussions with other folks who encountered the same rejections. So, I decided to write this particular paper.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

The most surprising finding was one that I found in a primary paper referenced in my research. Basically, a lot of reviewers (and editors, I must add) have this notion that CMB helps amplify significant findings. The reality is the exact opposite of it. If there is CMB present, then it actually suppresses effects. Also, CMB is pretty rare, and not as common as folks may believe.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

My first draft of the paper was a bit too “unacademic in tone” as per the reviewers. So, I had to make it more academic in tone, and yet stay within the realm of tones for the GOM-using articles. I really appreciate the reviewers, since my final paper was greatly improved by their suggestions and feedback.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

I would advise new scholars and incoming researchers to keep up with current methodology papers, especially the ones that challenge old and established ways of doing things. Just because everyone else does something a certain way, does not mean that that is the only way. Indeed, the way itself may be correct, but people may be traversing along it incorrectly.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

It would have to be Nikos Bozionelos and Marcia J. Simmering’s “Methodological threat or myth? Evaluating the current state of evidence on common method variance in human resource management research.” I found that to be an amazing paper, and I relied on it quite a bit as support for my own paper.

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Aditya Simha

Aditya Simha is an associate professor of management at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Washington State University. His research interests are in business ethics, healthcare ethics, leadership and organizational behavior, and research methods.

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