Call for Papers: Organization & Environment

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Organization & Environment is currently accepting manuscripts for an upcoming special issue on the topic: Financial Markets and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy.

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Website Stories in Times of Distress

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alexia Panayiotou  of the University of  Cyprus. Panayiotou recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Website Stories in Times of Distress,” co-authored by George Kassinis. From Panayiotou:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? My co-author and I have been interested in tmlq.jpghe use of corporate websites as a powerful communication strategy for several years. I was mostly interested in the power of visuality and George interested in questions of greenwashing. We had been following the BP website since 2005, as part of a larger project on the use of green imagery by oil companies. A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were ready to submit a paper about BP’s website arguing, in fact, that BP’s commitments offered a novel way through which oil exploration and environmental responsibility could co-exist. We even classified various problems that could have “warned” us about BP’s practices as “accidents.” When Deepwater Horizon happened, our ready-to-be-submitted draft became irrelevant. After the shock we underwent both as researchers and as dedicated environmentalists who had clearly misread the greenwashing signs, we decided to reframe our research question vis-à-vis the disaster to study how a company changes its visual story in times of distress. Our realization that even we could be “hijacked” by the corporate story—the corporate agenda had clearly overflown into our own act of research—forced us to refocus our assumptions and questions. It is in this context that corporate power, enabled through website use, became critical to our investigation as our experience highlighted the dangerous potential of becoming “accomplices” to this power.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? The most “surprising” finding was not only the change in the visual story told but the way in which this new story was constructed on the website. In addition, as noted above, we were shocked by how the “liquid organization” had co-opted us in the telling of its story through our own act of navigating the website, making us potential “accomplices” in the telling of its corporate story. We saw this as problematic for many reasons, but mainly because the co-telling of a story through website navigation could result in (paradoxically) solidifying what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid power” or “the art of escape from all forms of social responsibility,” especially in cases of corporate hypocrisy.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Corporate websites are surprisingly under-explored in organization studies, despite the so-called “visual turn.”  There are several reasons why website study should feature in our research agenda on management learning: First, websites serve as corporate “storytellers” as they transmit both high-level management messages and the corporate identity to outsiders. Second, , websites differ from other forms of corporate communication since the website user is dynamically involved in the “telling” of the corporate story through his or her navigation act; as such, the user is less a recipient and more a co-constructor of this story. Third, websites, as the most ‘fluid’ of all organizational constructs, may be the most appropriate means through which to study the non-committal, shifting organization of “liquid modernity.” Mobilizing website study in management practice and education can provide a better understanding of “corporate hypocrisy” in a liquid, modern world, especially in times of distress!

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On SAGE Insight: How Does the Media Frame Corporate Scandals?

[The following post is re-blogged from SAGE Insight. Please click here to view the original post. ]

Article title: How Does the Media Frame Corporate Scandals? The Case of German Newspapers and the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal

From Journal of Management Inquiry
Despite the importance that the media has in regard to influencing people’s perceptions of wrongdoing, organizational scholars have paid little attention to how the media reports wrongdoing. This article starts to address this gap by considering how the media frames corporate scandals. To study the connection between media framing and organizational wrongdoing, authors turn to political and mass communication research. They empirically examine how four different German newspapers reported on the Volkswagen diesel scandal.  This article testifies to the importance of cross-fertilization between research on mass communication and political science on one side, and organizational research on the other side and, more generally, it calls for more attention to be given to the media in the study of scandals and organizational wrongdoing.

Abstract

Despite the importance that the media has in regard to influencing people’s perceptions of wrongdoing, organizational scholars have paid little attention to how the media reports wrongdoing. This article starts to address this gap by considering how the media frames corporate scandals. We empirically examine how four different German newspapers reported on the Volkswagen diesel scandal. We inductively identify the constitutive elements of a general corporate scandal frame. Then, we analyze how each newspaper framed the scandal through combinations of different elements. We identify from our dataset four frames of corporate scandals that newspapers applied: legalistic, contextual, reputational, and scapegoating. Our article testifies to the importance of cross-fertilization between research on mass communication and political science on one side, and organizational research on the other side and, more generally, it calls for more attention to be given to the media in the study of scandals and organizational wrongdoing.

Read the article for free

Article details
How Does the Media Frame Corporate Scandals? The Case of German Newspapers and the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal
Marco Clemente, Claudia Gabbioneta
First Published February 1, 2017
Journal of Management Inquiry
DOI: 10.1177/1056492616689304

American Slaughterhouses: The Meatpacking and Methamphetamine Relationship

[We’re pleased to welcome author Josh A. Hendrix  of RTI International, Research Triangle Park. Hendrix recently published an article in the Organization & Environment entitled “American Slaughterhouses and the Need for Speed: An Examination of the Meatpacking-Methamphetamine Hypothesis,” co-authored by Cindy Brooks Dollar of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. From Hendrix:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? A few years ago, I was teaching an undergraduate Sociology of Social Deviance course.  In class one day, we were reflecting on an article we had just read and were bringing up examples of how deviant behavior can be influenced by structural or cultural factors that go beyond individual psychopathology.  I brought up an example I had recently come across in Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation; specifically, the notion that methamphetamine use can be a re122874634_b6873ca52d_z.jpgaction to social pressures for productivity within competitive Western societies.  Although the idea is provocative and made for a good example, I realized that there was no empirical research that could show whether there is in fact a relationship between animal slaughter and methamphetamine use in the United States.  I recruited one of my colleagues who I knew had the right skill set for this type of project:  an open, critical, and creative mind, and strong analytical skills, and the project really developed from there.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? We were surprised to find any support for Schlosser’s hypothesis that there is a connection between the meatpacking industry and methamphetamine use, simply because the idea is so radical and far out there.  At the same time, it was surprising that the relationship did not hold when breaking down our analysis by different types of meat.  This suggested to us that the relationship is more complex than we had first imagined but also made us realize that more research on this topic using different types of methods was necessary.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? We would love to see additional work on this topic, and especially a project that uses qualitative methods to elaborate on why methamphetamine may be used by slaughterhouse workers.  Alternatively, a study that examines methamphetamine usage prior to, and following the construction or relocation of slaughterhouses would be interesting and informative.

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Slaughterhouse photo attributed to benketaro (CC).

Albert Dunlap Style Likability: Those Who Seek Flattery Get Enemies

[The following post is re-blogged from Organizational Musings. Click here to view the original article. It is a commentary based on a recently published article in Administrative Science Quarterly entitled “Those Closest Wield the Sharpest Knife: How Ingratiation Leads to Resentment and Social Undermining of the CEO,” co-authored by Gareth D. Keeves, James D. Westphal, and Michael L. McDonald. From Organizational Musings:] 

I will start this post with an old story. CEO of Sunbeam Corp., Albert Dunlap, known as an expert in turning around troubled firms and selling them for a profit, was sued by the SEC in 2001 for accounting fraud. He was eventually barred from serving as an officer or director in any company, plus ordered to pay investors defrauded money in a class-action lawsuit.  Albert Dunlap was clearly someone in need of flattery, not just money, as he had the classical flattery-sickness symptom of a book written to celebrate his successes (see also his picture!). How he managed things internally in each firm he led is disputed, but much was said about his intimidation of other managers, who probably would conclude that a lot of flattery and ingratiation might help their career. Of course, managers still did better than employees, because his signature move in turning firms around was mass layoffs.

An interesting detail of his downfall was that managers around him were quick to release information that helped the investigation, which is distinct from the many firms with management teams that do all they can to deter and obstruct investigators. Is there a systematic reason for this difference? Possibly. A recent article in Administrative Science Quarterly by Gareth Keeves, James Westphal, and Michael McDonald looks at what happens when managers ingratiate their CEO through flattery and other tools. Their findings are interesting. First, managers who flatter lose their liking of the CEO. Somehow when people artificially put others on a pedestal they also start looking down on them.

Second, managers who flatter may go on to undermine the CEO. The light-handed version of this is to undermine the CEO’s messages to journalists, as this research showed. The heavy-handed version is what happened to Albert Dunlap. Among other events, his comptroller reported that he had been pushing for accounting practices that crossed the legal boundary, and sales people were quick to report “channel stuffing.” Channel stuffing is to sell too many goods and selling them too early, which is not illegal in itself (the sales channel can return unsold goods, so it is safe for them), but it is illegal when the sales are accounted as if they were final.  Those were practices that the SEC (and some investors) suspected, and that meant that what looked like a turnaround in sales and profits was actually a fraudulent scheme.

Seeking flattery is never thought of as a good thing. What we now know is that it also triggers undermining, and for those who have real weaknesses – like a CEO engaged in fraud – that undermining can be very consequential.

Organization OR Environment?

organization-enviroment[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas, Assistant Professor at Babson College in Organizational Behavior. Tosti-Kharas recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior for the Environment.” From Tosti-Kharas:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ¬ OCB-Es for short ¬ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think sustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn’t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

 

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Studying Organization Theory “As If Matter Mattered”

[We’re pleased to welcome Bruno Dyck of University of Manitoba. Bruno recently published an article with co-author Nathan S. Greidanus in Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory: A Study of Organization Theory as if Matter Mattered.” From Bruno:]

From environmental concerns like climate change to social issues like economic inequality, sustainable development presents this century’s greatest challenges and opportunities for businesses.  Yet, businesses remain trapped by old paradigms and approaches to the business-society-environment interface. To break free of these chains, we start with a simple question: what would a theory of business look like if matter mattered?  In answering this question, we turned to the field that is focused on the fundamental building blocks of all matter, quantum physics.

Do you remember the first time you heard about the unbelievable findings coming Current Issue Coverfrom quantum mechanics? Maybe it was research on entanglement, which shows that two quantum particles (e.g., two electrons) are interconnected in such a way that a change in one will have an instantaneous change in another, even if it is light years away. Or do you remember hearing about the results from the double slit experiments—perhaps the most famous experiment in all of physics—which shows that observing a photon changes it from acting like a wave into acting like a particle (If you want to watch a simple video about this, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc). Perhaps the most amazing variation of the double slit experiment shows that information is being sent backward in time. It has taken a century, but quantum physics has today become a dominant paradigm in the world of physics, even if we in the social sciences remain “stuck” in a Newtonian space-time box.

As co-authors we were fascinated by quantum research, and were curious about its implications for organization theory, and especially for sustainability. We believe that the ideas of entanglement and indeterminism provide a welcome and necessary framework to develop organizing theory that addresses key socio-ecological issues facing humankind, and which break free from the constraints associated with (Newtonian) notions of separateness, determinism and externalities. Moreover, a quantum perspective, which suggests that matter matters, provides a welcome counterpoint to the problematic fixation on socio-material well-being (e.g., money) that characterizes conventional theorizing.

We were pleasantly surprised by how readily the fundamental principles associated with the quantum world can serve as the basis to develop sustainable organization theory, As the sustainability issues facing humankind grow in urgency, we expect such non-Newtonian thinking to become as dominant in our field as it is in physics, but if this takes a century to happen then it may be too late.

The abstract for the paper:

We draw on quantum physics ideas of “entanglement” and “indeterminism” to introduce and develop “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory” (QSOT). Quantum entanglement points to the interconnectedness of matter in ways that defy Newtonian physics and commonsense assumptions that underlay conventional organizing theory. Quantum indeterminism suggests that uncertainty is an inherent feature of reality and not simply a lack of information that impedes rational decision making. Taken together, these quantum ideas challenge the assumptions of conventional organizational theorizing about the boundaries between a firm and its natural and social environment, the importance of self-interested individualism and (sociomaterial) financial measures of performance, the emphasis on competitiveness, and the hallmarks of rational theory and practice. We discuss implications for sustainable organizing in particular and for organization theory more generally.

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