Call for Papers: Organization & Environment


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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Institutional Theory Needs to Rethink its Neglect of Morality

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Geoff Moore of Durham University, UK and Gina Grandy of the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Bringing Morality Back in: Institutional Theory and MacIntyre.” From Moore and Grandy:]

We have had an interest for many years in the work of the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and the ways in which, despite his highly critical approach to capitalism and corporate management, his work can be used to explain and explore what a virtue-based understanding of organizations means in both theory and practice. In particular, his distinctions between practices and institutions, and between two types of goods (internal and external) which are pursued by organizationJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs has led to a series of papers exploring the implications of this approach. In this endeavour, we have been encouraged by a steady stream of articles, both theoretical and practical, which have explored this understanding of practices and organizations in such diverse settings as circuses, jazz, investment advising, banking, health and beauty retailing, and pharmaceuticals.

At the same time, we have noted the potential links with Institutional Theory and in particular its notions of logics and legitimacy and wanted to explore these links in greater depth. We were also concerned that new Institutional Theory lacks a positive account or morality and felt that this could be addressed by integrating it with MacIntyre’s work.

An empirical project involving an ecumenical study of churches in the north east of England led to some findings which we felt could be best explained by just such an integration of Institutional Theory and MacIntyre’s work. In particular, consistent throughout the empirical evidence was practitioners’ concern with the telos (overall purpose) of their organizations and the core practices of their faith, and their concern for the legitimacy of their organizations both to internal and external audiences, and hence of the moral nature of organizational life.

We argue that these findings can be generalized to any practice-based organization and conclude that ignoring or underplaying the moral dimension will give, at best, a diminished account of organizational life. Hence, we argue that Institutional Theory needs to rethink its neglect of morality and we suggest several implications for Institutional Theory as a result. We hope this might lead to further studies which follow up our lead and so to the bringing of morality back in to Institutional Theory. We also hope that a wider recognition of the moral dimension as an essential component in organizational life will impact practitioners and lead to organizations fulfilling their potential for the common good.

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Students as Protégés: Factors That Lead to Success

[We’re pleased to welcome author Stephen Bear of  Fairleigh Dickenson University. Bear recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Students as Protégés: Factors That Lead to Success,” co-authored by Gwen Jones. Below, Bear outlines the importance of this study:]

26111521686_8aeaf7a60a_z.jpgWe have established, in our undergraduate curriculum, a practitioner-mentoring program for all business students in our sophomore-level organizational behavior course. The intent of the program is that, early in the students’ business education, they will begin to link and apply the theories of organizational behavior to actual workplace situations through regular interactions with their mentor throughout the semester.  For many students the mentoring program is the highlight of the course, while for others the mentoring program is just another required course assignment.  This range of reactions led us to wonder what factors encourage satisfaction with practitioner-student mentoring relationships?  The level of satisfaction with a mentor is important because dissatisfaction can prompt a protégé to spend less time with a mentor and can reduce the quality of mentoring exchanges and the overall effectiveness of the mentoring relationship (Ortiz-Walters, Eddleston & Simone, 2010).

In our study we examined five independent variables that we believed could affect satisfaction:  networking to find a mentor, trust in the mentor, self-disclosure to the mentor, role modelling by the mentor and mentoring program understanding.  While each variable was positively related to mentoring relationship satisfaction, the most surprising finding of the study was the importance of student networking to find a mentor.  Many students initially have difficulty finding a mentor, and we have debated whether faculty should step in to ensure that each student has a high quality mentor.  Our study showed that when student’s network to find their own mentors this is positively associated with mentoring relationship satisfaction.  Students who found their own mentors were more satisfied with their mentoring relationships than students who relied on the professor to match them with a mentor.  We believe this finding is very relevant to faculty and to staff that establish mentoring programs as it suggests that whenever possible, student protégés not faculty should play the key role in the selection of their mentor.  Finally the relationship between networking and mentoring relationship satisfaction is likely complex and should be explored further in future research. In our study, 77% of students were successful in finding their mentors through networking, and analysis indicated that there were no significant differences in finding a mentor, as based on age, gender, or race/ethnicity. An opportunity for future research is to determine whether socioeconomic class or a student’s first-generation college status would influence the ability to network to find a mentor, as these students might have fewer networking contacts.

Ortiz-Walters, R., Eddleston, K. A., & Simione, K. (2010). Satisfaction with mentoring

Student photo attributed to the University of the Fraser Valley (CC).

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Measuring Organizational Legitimacy in Social Media

[We’re pleased to welcome author Michael Etter of the City University of London, UK. Etter recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Measuring Organizational Legitimacy in Social Media: Assessing Citizens’ Judgments With Sentiment Analysis,” co-authored by Elanor Colleoni, Laura Illia, Katia Meggiorin, and Antonino D’Eugenio. From Etter:]

8583949219_f55657573e_z.jpgSocial media have given ordinary citizens the opportunity to freely express their opinions and feelings in any tone or style. The heated discussions around various topics from politics, sports, and corporations often evolve in parallel to news media coverage. Accordingly, we have developed the idea that a measurement of citizens’ judgment in social media can give researchers a new way to assess the legitimacy of organizations. Compared to existing measurements that, for example, assess judgments in news media coverage, a measurement based on social media would directly access the voices of ordinary citizens and therefore account for their heterogeneous norms and expectations.

In this article we describe and test how a measurement based on social media data can give indication for organizational legitimacy. We use the method of sentiment analysis that is based on computational linguistics and apply it to a case from the banking industry over a one year period.

Our findings show that, indeed, an analysis of 14’000 tweets reveals a different judgment than the analysis of 730 news articles. Compared to the news media, citizens judge the bank in a much more negative way. Also we find that the bank is discussed by 6000 citizens and for a broad variety of topics (around 400 hashtags). Clearly, social media data gives researchers access to different judgments than found in news media, which are written by a few journalists that adhere to professional norms and standards and are subject to various selection processes. We therefore encourage researchers to take into account social media, such as Twitter, in order to achieve a richer understanding of legitimation processes in a digital world. For practitioners, sentiment analysis of twitter data is a tool to monitor and identify issues and sentiment in a timely manner.

Cell phone photo attributed to Jason Howie (CC).

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Using Theory Elaboration to Make Theoretical Advancements

[We’re pleased to welcome author Herman Aguinis of George Washington University. He recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled, “Using Theory Elaboration to Make Theoretical Advancements,”co-authored by Greg Fisher of Indiana University. From Aguinis:]

“Our field is rapidly being pulled apart by centrifugal forces. Like a supernova that once packed a wallop, our energy is now dissipating and we are quickly growing cold”
Donald Hambrick (2004, p. 91)

“Like symphony orchestras that play a repertoire of a dozen baroque and classical composers year in and year out, management research can sometimes appear like a living museum of the 1970s.”
Jerry Davis (2010, p. 691)

As highlighted by the above two quotes, theory development in the management field is fragmented and lacks novelty. What then can we do about this?

We propose that one way to address the opposing forces of fragmentation and lack of novelty is to adopt an approach to theory development that has loosely been referred to as theory ORM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgelaboration. Lee, Mitchell and Sablynski (1999) suggested that “Theory elaboration occurs when preexisting conceptual ideas or a preliminary model drives [a] study’s design” (p. 164) and they contrasted it with theory generation that “occurs when the inquiry’s design produces formal and testable research propositions” and theory testing that “occurs when formal hypotheses or a formal theory determines the study’s design” (Lee et al., 1999, p. 164). We provide a more comprehensive definition of theory elaboration as the process of conceptualizing and executing empirical research using pre-existing conceptual ideas or a preliminary model as a basis for developing new theoretical insights by contrasting, specifying, or structuring theoretical constructs and relations to account for and explain empirical observations.

To better understand theory elaboration we identified published articles that have implicitly or explicitly adopted such an approach, and although the overall number of articles is small we recognized that many such articles are among the most highly cited and impactful in the management field. We therefore set about to codify such an approach. To do so we used a reverse-engineering process to extract fundamental features of impactful theory elaboration studies.

Our goal is adopting such a reverse engineering process was to explain how to conduct a theory elaboration study, to offer illustrations of how to use particular tactics to achieve specific theory advancement goals, and to point out particular contexts and circumstances where theory elaboration is most fruitful. As such our paper serves as a catalyst for “cloning” the important theoretical advancements that have been achieved by the handful of studies that have adopted a theory elaboration perspective.

From this reverse engineering process we describe seven specific tactics for conducting a theory elaboration study:

  • Horizontal contrasting – contrasting observations across different contexts
  • Vertical contrasting – contrasting observations across different levels of analysis
  • New construct specification – identifying and defining new constructs
  • Construct splitting – identifying a need or oppo
    rtunity to break a broad construct into specific constructs
  • Structuring specific relations – defining/redefining a specific relation between two constructs
  • Structuring sequence relations – providing an explanation of a sequence of events or relations
  • Structuring recursive relations – Accounting for a recursive relation between two or more entities over repeated interactions

We link each of these tactics with different types of theory advancements and we provide a sequential decision-making process for deciding whether to adopt a theory elaboration approach. Finally, we identify research domains and specific topics in OBHR, strategic management, and entrepreneurship for which theory elaboration is likely to be highly effective as a means to make theoretical advancements. We believe that theory elaboration holds a great promise as a perspective to empower scholars to overcome some of the current challenges associated with theory advancement in the management field.

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Organizational Demands on Productivity, Innovations, and Safety

[We’re pleased to welcome author Marianne Törner of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Coping With Paradoxical Demands Through an Organizational Climate of Perceived Organizational Support: An Empirical Study Among Workers in Construction and Mining Industry” co-authored by Anders Pousette, Pernilla Larsman, and Sven Hemlin. From Törner:]

Most organJABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgizations must be able to combine efficiency, innovativeness, and safe and healthy working conditions, but these demands may appear paradoxical to the employees, and if not handled well by the organization, such paradoxes may create stressful goal conflicts. A large amount of research, not least organizational climate research, has focused on how organizations may promote each one of these goals, but we believe there is a need for research that may help organizations to effectively and simultaneously attain different goals. This was the starting point for this study where we investigated how organizations may support the employees’ ability to reconcile conflicting goals, and thereby promote organizational success as well as employee well-being and sense of worth.

The abstract to their article is below:

Organizational demands on productivity, innovations, and safety may seem paradoxical. How can the organization support employees to cope with such paradox? Based on organizational climate measures of safety, occupational health, innovativeness, and production effectiveness, we explored if a second-order organizational climate could be identified, that was associated with staff safety, health, innovations and team effectiveness, and if such a climate could be represented by an organizational climate of perceived organizational support (POS). Questionnaire data were collected from 137 workgroups in four Swedish companies in construction and mining. Analyses (structural equation modeling) were done at the workgroup level and a split sample technique used to investigate relations between climates and outcomes. A general second-order organizational climate was identified. Also, an organizational climate constructed by items selected to represent POS, was associated with team effectiveness, innovations, and safety. A POS-climate may facilitate employees’ coping with paradoxes, and provide a heuristic for managers in decision making.

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