Mental health issues in early-career researchers are on the rise: could “horizontal linkages” amongst peers help foster emotional support? Lucas Amaral Lauriano, Julia Grimm, and Camilo Arciniegas Pradilla reflect on the origins of their paper, “Navigating Academia’s Stressful Waters: Discussing the Power of Horizontal Linkages for Early-Career Researchers,” which was recently published in Business & Society.
After a grueling three-and-a-half-year wait, one of our authors learned that their manuscript was rejected by a top journal in the field of management and organization. The blow was disheartening. Within a few weeks, another author faced the same fate; their paper was rejected after years in the submission process. We sought solace in each other, sharing our frustrations and finding comfort in the solidarity.
We reflected upon these shared moments over the years – not only connected to paper rejections, but also other “heavier” moments that impacted our jobs and mental health. We then realized the vital role of the “horizontal linkages” we had with one another as reliable emotional support in academia, particularly for early-career scholars. The significance of these relationships had eluded us for far too long, leaving us in surprise at our oversight. These realizations compelled us to pen this piece, driven by a desire to shed light on their importance.
We found further motivation when reading other opinion-pieces and commentaries within management studies. Scholars argue that academia is “broken” and that we as a community fail to apply the “best practices” we develop in research to our very own, daily activities. Additionally, studies exploring the reasons behind our behavior and its consequences inspired us. For example, recent research suggests that academics are becoming more like “entrepreneurs” due to their relative independence from institutions and the cultivation of their personal brands. This may also explain why many of us are excessively concerned about our online presence so we can build our images and expose our work to broader audiences. Consequently, these changes, along with persistent structural issues in academia, make this job challenging for most early-career scholars.
We sincerely hope that our work prompts reflection. Firstly, senior scholars, whether intentionally or not, play a role in maintaining the current system and should rethink how they could help early-career scholars develop and maintain horizontal linkages so as to free themselves out of often unhealthy power relations that vertical linkages pose. Secondly, we believe that junior scholars can relatively easily establish horizontal connections, but they also need to take a moment, assess their circumstances, and strategize the best ways to connect with each other early throughout their careers. This pause and reflection took us years to undertake, and we aim to expedite this process for colleagues who are facing similar frustrations and are in need for peer support.