Spela Trefalt

Associate Professor

I joined Simmons faculty in 2008, after earning a D.B.A. in Management from the Harvard Business School, an M.B.A. from the University of Kansas, and a B.A. in Law from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Prior to my academic career, I spent six years as a human resources management consultant, and eight years working in the media in Slovenia.

I study how professionals manage the demands of work and life outside of work, with particular emphasis on the role of interpersonal relationships in this process. I focus on what enables them to thrive in the context of extremely high work demands and desires for meaningful involvement in other aspects of life. My research appears in academic journals such Academy of Management Journal, European Management Journal, Management Research, Journal of Management Education, and others; in books such as Handbook of Innovative Qualitative Research, and Expanding Boundaries of Work-Family Research, and in other outlets, such as CGO Insights and Management Magazine. I am a member of the Academy of Management, a founding member of the Work-Family Researchers Network, and a faculty affiliate of the Center of Gender in Organizations.

In another research stream, I study how professional and peer coaching can help people thrive at home and at work.

I also serve as an executive coach. I work with professionals who want to grow as leaders, who seek more meaning in their work and more work-life balance. I am certified by the International Coaching Federation and a member of Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Affiliate.

When I am not working, I love spending time with my husband and two daughters, reading, hiking, dancing, and enjoying all things delicious.


  • D.B.A., Harvard Business School;
  • M.B.A., University of Kansas;
  • B.A., Law, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

What I Teach

Graduate Classes

  • MBAO 455 Leading Individuals and Groups
  • MBAO 465 Leading Organizational Change
  • MBAOI 490 Women's Leadership Immersion

Undergraduate Classes

  • BUS 222a Human Resources for Everyone
  • MGMT 222b Human Resources for People Managers
  • MGMT 395 Business Management Capstone

Executive Education

  • Strategic Networking
  • Peer Coaching
  • Leading Organizational Change
  • Coaching

Research/Creative Activities

I am conducting a project with Angela Passarelli, PhD, Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Charleston and Research Fellow with the Coaching Research Lab at Case Western Reserve University. We are exploring how coaching can help working women transition into motherhood. We are conducting interviews with coaches and will interview mothers in the future.

I am also exploring what I call "negative assumptions" — our beliefs about what courses of action will result in negative consequences for us — their stickiness (left to our own devices, we never test them), their consequences (they are tremendous), and coaches' ability to help us examine them by designing low-risk tests.

As Diane K. Trust Associate Professor in Leadership Development at Simmons University, I am developing an undergraduate course on the “coach approach” to leadership and a study that will examine the difference such a course can make for young women leaders.


Peer Reviewed Journal Publications and Chapters

Trefalt, Š. (forthcoming). Leading Organizational Change: Semester-Long Project. Management Teaching Review.

Trefalt, Š., & Besharov, M. H.-P. 2016. “The journey from data to a qualitative inductive paper: Who helps and how?” In K. D. Elsbach & R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of innovative qualitative research:401-410. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

Las Heras, M., Trefalt, Š., & Escribano, P. I. [equal authors]. 2015. “How national context moderates the impact of family-supportive supervisory behavior on job performance and turnover intentions.” Management Research. The Journal of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management, 13(1), 55-82. *2016 Outstanding Paper Award*

Trefalt, Š. 2014. “How network properties affect one's ability to obtain benefits: A network simulation.” Journal of Management Education, 38, 672-700.

Trefalt, Š. 2013. “Between you and me: Setting work-nonwork boundaries in the context of workplace relationships.” Academy of Management Journal, 56, 1802-1829.

Trefalt, Š., Drnovšek, M., Svetina-Nabergoj, A., & Adlešič, R. 2013. “Work-life experiences in rapidly changing national contexts: Structural misalignment, comparisons and choice overload as explanatory mechanisms.” European Management Journal, 31, 448-463. *Finalist: 2014 Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research*

Trefalt, Š. 2012. “Fairly Flexible: Preventing perceptions of unfairness in enactment of workplace flexibility.” In Steven Poelmans, Jeffrey Greenhaus and Mireia Las Heras Maestro (Eds.) Expanding boundaries of work-family research: A vision for the future. Palgrave Macmillan.

Trefalt, Š. 2011. “Integrating Giving Voice To Values across the MBA Curriculum: The Case of Simmons School of Management.” Journal of Business Ethics Education, 8, 326-331.

Adkins, C., Gentile, M. C., Ingols, C., & Trefalt, Š. [equal authors] 2011. “Teaching 'How'—not 'Whether'—to Manage with Integrity: Undergraduate and MBA Applications of the 'Giving Voice To Values' Curriculum.” In Agatha Stachowicz-Stanusch & Charles Wankel (Eds.), Management Education for Integrity (pp. 107-133). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.

Trefalt, Š. 2010. “Interpersonal aspects of justice in workplace flexibility enactment.” In S. Sweet, & J. Casey (Eds.), Work and family encyclopedia. Chestnut Hill, MA: Sloan Work and Family Research Network.

Trefalt, Š. 2010. “In good standing & standing your ground: Preserving relationships in workplace flexibility enactment.” In Leslie A. Toombs (Ed.), Best Papers Proceedings of the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (CD), ISSN 1543-8643.

Trefalt, Š., & Perlow, L. 2005. “Learning from women who make it work: A call for dynamic flexibility.” In K. D. Elsbach (Ed.), Qualitative Organizational Research: Best Papers from the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research: 227-251. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Other Publications

Trefalt, Š. 2014. “Balancing acts: The role of management in enabling professionals' work-life balance.” Management Magazine, Spring.

Trefalt, Š., Merrill-Sands, D., Kolb, D., Wilson, F., & Carter, S. 2013. “Blocked from the top: Gender bias is still holding women back.” Management Magazine, Spring.

Trefalt, Š., Merrill-Sands, D., Kolb, D., Wilson, F., & Carter, S. 2011. “Closing the women's leadership gap: Who can help?” Center for Gender in Organizations. CGO Insights (32).

Trefalt, Š. 2011. “Prosti čas in kaj bi z njim/Time off and what to do with it.” OnaPlus. [In Slovenian]

Trefalt, Š. 2005. “Andrew Ross: No-collar: The humane workplace and its hidden costs.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 50(2): 312-314.


2017: Organizational Behavior Simulation: Leveraging Networks. A simulation to teach strategic networking, developed in collaboration with Harvard Business School Publishing and now available from their website.

Recent Conference Presentations

October 2019: Trefalt, Š. & Passarelli, A. Coaching for Career Decisions During Impending Motherhood. Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare Conference, Boston, Massachusetts.

August 2019: Trefalt, Š. Friends or Foes: Attorneys' Narratives of Balancing Work and Life. Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts.

August 2019: Trefalt, Š. & Passarelli, A. (2019). Transition to Working Motherhood Coaching. Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts.

August 2018: Becoming a Balanced Consultant: Learning about Boundary Work (with E. Heaphy). Annual Academy of Management, Chicago, Illinois.

June 2018: Learning the Ropes: How Professionals Learn to Do Boundary Work (with E. Heaphy). Work and Family Researchers Network Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

June 2016: Crafting a Meaningful Academic or Post-Academic Career (with Alyssa Friede and Monique Valcour) Work and Family Researchers Network Conference, Washington, DC.

June 2016: A Process Approach to Work-Life Crafting: Cycles of Opportunity and Dead-Ends in a Time-Hungry Occupation (with Emily Heaphy), International Symposium on Process Organization Studies, Corfu, Greece.

August 2015: Achieving temporal flexibility in project work: The role of job crafting (with E. Heaphy), Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

August 2014: Trading for time off: Expertise, relationship quality, and the relational construction of temporal flexibility (with E. Heaphy), Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.

August 2014: How national context moderates the effect of family-supportive supervisory behavior on job performance and turnover intentions (with M. Las Heras and P. Escribano), Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.

June 2014: How national context moderates the effect of family-supportive supervisory behavior on job performance and turnover intentions (with Las Heras, M. and Escribano, P.). Work and Family Researchers Network Conference, New York, NY.