The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Organizational Rankings

film-price-2930591_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Violina P. Rindova of the University of Southern California, Luis L. Martins, Santosh B. Srinivas of the University of Texas at Austin, and David Chandler of the University of Colorado Denver. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Organizational Rankings: A Multidisciplinary Review of the Literature and Directions for Future,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss their motivations and findings:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

In recent years, pressures on organizations for greater accountability, to a wider range of stakeholders, have increased. One of the most salient examples of this new culture of accountability is organizational rankings, such as rankings of best business schools, and best places to work. However, while rankings have grown in prevalence and popularity, and in spite of growing attention from scholars, there is much that we still do not know about how they are produced and, subsequently, consumed. This is particularly so in management research, where there is great interest in related constructs, such as reputation and status, but where a major review of the literature to identify exactly where we stand, and in what directions we need to conduct future research, remains notable by its absence. This paper is intended to fill this gap in the literature.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our review is unique in that it takes a multi-disciplinary view of rankings. Rankings have been researched in many disciplines that do not often talk to each other, leading to a fragmentary understanding of the phenomenon. Our analysis of published work in the fields of management, sociology (including social, political, and cultural anthropology), education, and law reveals that research into rankings can be characterized by three perspectives: (i) rankings as forms of information intermediation, whereby they make information about organizations available, accessible, and comprehensible to stakeholders; (ii) comparative orderings, in that they confer reputation and/or status to organizations, thereby affecting resource exchanges; and (iii) means for surveillance and control, in that they serve a political purpose and impose a discipline on organizations. For each of these perspectives we identify core contributions, as well as additional questions that extend the current body of research. In addition to identifying potential avenues for future research within the existing three dominant perspectives, we also identify a new perspective: rankings entrepreneurship. This additional perspective has been largely overlooked to date, but promises exciting new avenues for investigating the motivations and characteristics of the actors who produce rankings, how they position and market their rankings, and how they influence stakeholders to grant their rankings legitimacy. Our comprehensive review of the literature on rankings across multiple disciplines provides researchers with a good starting point to quickly get a sense for the received knowledge on the topic, and our suggestions for future research provide guidance on where additional research could address important unanswered questions about rankings.

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

As a supplement to our paper, we present the detailed listing of all the relevant papers we identified in an online appendix. This appendix collects and orders these papers in a coherent table, as well as presents the complete reference list, which we were unable to fit into our published paper. We hope the comprehensive nature of our review will be informative to our colleagues, as well as encourage future research into this ever-important area of organization theory. The online appendix, along with our published article, should be very useful to doctoral students preparing for comprehensive exams and for scholars interested in entering this field of inquiry.

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

Our examination of the literature across multiple disciplines identified some core theoretical foundations that can be used to build coherence within this area of research, but also a large proliferation of work that does not build well on existing research. We believe that our collective understanding of the phenomenon will be advanced in a more systematic fashion if researchers entering the field are cognizant of the multitude of lenses through which the phenomena of rankings can be understood, and clearly build on existing theoretical foundations. Importantly, despite the very large number of papers and books on the topic, there is tremendous room for new research on rankings. In particular, we believe that the entrepreneurial processes behind the production of rankings holds great potential for future research that can inform not just research but also the general public on some tricky realities behind the production and distribution of rankings and their role in markets in societies. As we note in our article, there are many questions on the motives, resources, and practices of rankings entrepreneurs that remain to be answered. Also, research on how organizations can come up with strategic responses to overcome the perverse influence that rankings can often wield over organizations would produce important guidelines for managers and organizations dealing with rankings.

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Role of Referrers in Hiring

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jenna R. Pieper of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Charlie O. Trevor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ingo Weller of LMU Munich, and Dennis Duchon of University of Nebraska-Lincoln . They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Referral Hire Presence Implications for Referrer Turnover and Job Performance,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Pieper discusses the events and circumstance that inspired this research:]


This paper was motivated by a general curiosity about the critical role of referrers in referral hiring in organizational settings, and originated in a section of my doctoral dissertation. Referral hiring, or the practice of using recommendations of a current employee (referrer) to identify and hire a new employee (referral hire), often accounts for 30% to 50% of an organization’s filling of its job openings. To date, the attention of research and practice has focused primarily on the referral hires and their outcomes, leaving a glaring gap in our understanding of how referrers are impacted by the hiring of a friend or acquaintance. We were therefore interested in gaining insight into how the presence of a referral hire influences referrer performance and voluntary turnover.

Our findings, which are arguably the first to specifically examine how referral hiring impacts referrers, show that referrers are indeed impacted by the presence of their referral hire through a socially enriched workplace. In our study, employees with a referral hire present were 27% less likely to leave than employees without a referral hire present, and their performance improved by 5.1% when a referral hire was present. However, we found that job similarity (indicating heightened workplace exposure) between referrers and their referral hires, when compared to job dissimilarity, was associated with lower referrer job performance. Thus, it seems the costs, such as socialization and informal training, for referrers in similar jobs to their referral hires may offset the performance gains gleamed from the referral hire presence. Most important to our work is that we provide the only empirical evidence to date that referring enhances the social enrichment construct at the heart of referral hire discourse.

I think that future research on this topic should continue to consider the critical role of the referrer in referral hiring. My main advice for scholars would be to consider the interface between the various stakeholders in referral hiring, different referring pathways, the intricacies in how referring hiring unfolds over time, and the contingencies that affect its outcomes. A lot of fascinating contributions can still be made regarding referral hiring.

Finally, our work is important to practitioners. It demonstrates that the presence aspect is crucial. When coupled with the well-established benefits for the referral hire, referral hiring appears to be a value proposition for the firm because performance and retention gains emerge for both referrers and referral hires. Thus, our work would encourage continued practice of referral hiring. Practitioners can also take from our study that it is important to be aware of and work to prevent potential downsides associated with referral hiring.

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Understanding the Differential Effects of Anxiety and Anger

depression-2912404_1280[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Laurie J. Barclay of Wilfrid Laurier University, and Tina Kiefer of the University of Warwick. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “In the Aftermath of Unfair Events: Understanding the Differential Effects of Anxiety and Anger,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, the motivation for their research:]

JOM_42_5_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?
We were interested in how employees experience unfair events on a day-to-day basis and how they “live through” and actively navigate these experiences. We wanted to move away from the dominant perspective in the literature that examines how unfairness impacts employees through the “eyes” and interests of managers and organizations. Instead, we wanted to ground our investigation in employees’ experiences to understand how employees process and respond to these events and how this impacts their relationship with the organization.

Within the fairness literature, it is often assumed that negative emotions are detrimental. However, negative emotions can be functional for employees and hence organizations. One of our study’s most compelling findings is that employees who experience anxiety in reaction to the unfair event are motivated to engage in problem prevention behaviors, which are aimed at “fixing” the situation. Interestingly, employees who engage in these behaviors experienced a “rebound” in their fairness perceptions, such that the drop in perceived fairness due to the unfair event was corrected. By contrast, anger was functional by showing that the unfairness would not be tolerated but did not have the same positive impact on subsequent fairness perceptions. This raises important questions about how employees’ behaviors impact the aftermath of the unfair event and the importance of understanding how employees are experiencing these events to effectively manage these situations.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
After decades of research, the fairness literature has become a mature and well-established domain of inquiry, with thousands of studies and dozens of theories. Although this wealth of empirical evidence and theoretical diversity has provided much richness, incoming researchers and doctoral students can find it a bit intimidating to dive into. Further, some scholars have also questioned whether the maturity of this literature will lead to stagnation. However, there are many opportunities to make significant, novel, and important discoveries in this domain by taking different and novel perspectives.

One way to continue to stimulate this literature is to identify and question its underlying assumptions. For example, in our research, we grounded our investigation in the experiences of employees which challenges the dominant perspective in the field. This approach created a number of insights regarding how employees actively navigate unfair events, including how employees can impact their own fairness perceptions through their emotional and behavioral responses as well as the functional nature of negative emotions.

We would encourage new scholars and incoming researchers to challenge assumptions in the literature and also consider how applying theories from other domains and perspectives to fairness can enhance our insights. Doing so will create exciting new opportunities to expand our understanding and ability to manage this important phenomenon. Given the pervasiveness and impact of unfairness, it is critical to provide employees and organizations with evidence-based practices that can help prevent these experiences, where possible, and effectively navigate unfairness when it does occur.

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Interactions Between Justice Levels and Trajectories Predicting Behavioral Reciprocity


[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alex Rubenstein of the University of Memphis, David G. Allen of Texas Christian University, and Frank A. Bosco of the Virginia Commonwealth University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “What’s Past (and Present) Is Prologue: Interactions Between Justice Levels and Trajectories Predicting Behavioral Reciprocity,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Rubenstein discusses the events and circumstance that inspired his research:]

JOM_42_5_Covers.inddWe began this paper by considering the nature of how people experience fairness in the workplace. Certainly any instance of fair or unfair treatment can have an effect on employee’s attitudes and behavior in the future, but we were also interested in how the past can differently shape employee’s interpretation of the present. For instance, imagine two employees who think their organization is moderately fair. Previous studies would expect them to have similar attitudes and be equal organizational citizens in the future. However, we wondered whether past fairness experiences—specifically, the trajectory of experienced justice in the past, if has been getting better, worse, or staying the same—could color the interpretation of the present differently for these employees.

Our results, which are arguably the first that specifically examine how employees behaviorally reciprocate to this interactive pattern of past and present treatment, show that indeed the past is prologue when it comes to justice. We examined how present justice levels and trajectories over time interacted to predict helping behavior as well as future employee turnover behavior. That is, two employees who rate the exact same levels of current fairness at work may reciprocate differently (in terms of helping other employees and even their decision to remain a member of the organization) because of potentially different past trends of experienced justice. We found that the highest levels of helping, and the lowest levels of turnover were for those employees with high current levels of perceived fairness, along with a positive past trajectory. It seems that employees are most willing to reciprocate to their organizations when things are currently quite fair AND if things have been getting progressively better over time.

I think this research will spur new studies that consider the dynamic nature of organizational phenomena, and the value in looking at variables’ change over time. I feel the methodology of change modeling has only recently caught up to the theory, and a lot of fascinating contributions can be made regarding how growth and decline in phenomena (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) affect individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole.

I think new scholars looking at organizational justice can continue to take a dynamic look at its change over time, both in the short and long term. My main advice would be to brush up on research methods, such as latent growth modeling and structural equation modeling. We all have lots of questions, and its is important that researchers be equipped with the methodological tools to test those questions.

I think the most influential piece of scholarship I have read recently was Alvesson, M., & Sandberg, J. 2011. Generating research questions through problematization. Academy of Management Review, 36: 247–271. An important part of framing your study is not just “gap-filling”, but demonstrating how your study solves a problem, and this paper does a good job of explaining how to do this.

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Scales photo attributed to Artsybee. (CC)


JOM Wins Awards at AOM 2017!

Patrick WrightSAGE is excited to congratulate JOM on winning multiple awards at AOM 2017. Congratulations to former editor of the Journal of Management, Patrick M. Wright, for winning the Career Achievement Award.


JOM_42_5_Covers.inddAnd congratulations to authors Anthony J. Nyberg, Jenna R. Pieper, and Charlie O. Trevor for their paper,  “Pay-for-Performance’s Effect on Future Employee Performance Integrating Psychological and Economic Principles Toward a Contingency Perspective,which received the HRM Division Scholarly Achievement Award for best paper from 2016.”


For more information on the Journal of Management visit the journal homepage where you can sign up for email alerts and keep up to date!

Read the November 2016 Issue of Journal of Management!

3340359442_b93f0f9aa9_o-1The November 2016 issue of Journal of Management is now available online, and can be accessed for the next 30 days! The November issue covers a variety of topics, including articles on organizational transparency, shared leadership-team performance relations, and the effects of autonomy on team performance.

Authors Anthony J. Nyberg, Jenna R. Pieper, and Charlie O. Trevor contributed the article “Pay-for-Performance’s Effect on Future Employee Performance: Integrating Psychological and Economic Principles Toward a Contingency Perspective,” which suggests that bonus pay may have a stronger effect on future performance than merit pay, among other findings about pay-for-performance. The abstract for the paper:

Although pay-for-performance’s potential effect on employee performance is a compelling issue, understanding this dynamic has been constrained by narrow approaches to pay-for-performance conceptualization, measurement, and surrounding conditions. In response, we take a more nuanced perspective by integrating fundamental principles of economics and psychology to identify and incorporate employee characteristics, job characteristics, pay system Current Issue Covercharacteristics, and pay system experience into a contingency model of the pay-for-performance–future performance relationship. We test the role that these four key contextual factors play in pay-for-performance effectiveness using 11,939 employees over a 5-year period. We find that merit and bonus pay, as well as their multiyear trends, are positively associated with future employee performance. Furthermore, our findings indicate that, contrary to what traditional economic perspectives would predict, bonus pay may have a stronger effect on future performance than merit pay. Our results also support a contingency approach to pay-for-performance’s impact on future employee performance, as we find that merit pay and bonus pay can substitute for each other and that the strength of pay-for-performance’s effect is a function of employee tenure, the pay-for-performance trend over time, and job type (presumably due to differences in the measurability of employee performance across jobs).

Another article from the issue, entitled “Social Media for Selection? Validity and Adverse Impact Potential of a Facebook-Based Assessment” from authors Chad H. Van Iddekinge, Stephen E. Lanivich, Philip L. Roth, and Elliott Junco delves into the hazards that arise when recruiters use social media platforms like Facebook to screen job applicants. The abstract for the paper:

Recent reports suggest that an increasing number of organizations are using information from social media platforms such as to screen job applicants. Unfortunately, empirical research concerning the potential implications of this practice is extremely limited. We address the use of social media for selection by examining how recruiter ratings of Facebook profiles fare with respect to two important criteria on which selection procedures are evaluated: criterion-related validity and subgroup differences (which can lead to adverse impact). We captured Facebook profiles of college students who were applying for full-time jobs, and recruiters from various organizations reviewed the profiles and provided evaluations. We then followed up with applicants in their new jobs. Recruiter ratings of applicants’ Facebook information were unrelated to supervisor ratings of job performance (rs = −.13 to –.04), turnover intentions (rs = −.05 to .00), and actual turnover (rs = −.01 to .01). In addition, Facebook ratings did not contribute to the prediction of these criteria beyond more traditional predictors, including cognitive ability, self-efficacy, and personality. Furthermore, there was evidence of subgroup difference in Facebook ratings that tended to favor female and White applicants. The overall results suggest that organizations should be very cautious about using social media information such as Facebook to assess job applicants.

You can read these articles and more from the November 2016 issue of Journal of Management, which is free for the next 30 days, by clicking here to view the issue’s table of contents! Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Journal of Management? Click here to sign up for e-alerts to receive notifications for new issues and Online First articles!

*City image attributed to Mark Goebel (CC)

Announcing the Winners of JOM’s Best Paper and Scholarly Impact Award!

We are pleased to congratulate the 2016 Journal of Management Best Paper and Scholarly Current Issue CoverImpact Award winners, announced just recently at the Academy of Managment 2016 Annual Meeting.

The Scholarly Impact Award, given annually, recognizes work with a lasting impact on the academic community and beyond. Our congratulations to the following winners:

Scholarly Impact Award:
Christopher Zott, Raphel Amit, and Lorenzo Massa
“The Business Model: Recent Developments and Future Research”

Scholarly Impact Award:
Donald Lange, Peggy M. Lee, and Ye Dai
“Organizational Reputation: A Review”

Scholarly Impact Award:
Dirk Van Dierendonck
“Servant Leadership: A Review and Synthesis”

Scholarly Impact Award:
Suzanne T. Bell, Anton J. Villado, Marc A. Lukasik, Larisa Belau, Andrea L. Briggs
“Getting Specific About Demographic Diversity Variable and Team Performance Relationships: A Meta-Analysis”

Best Paper Award and Scholarly Impact Award:
Brian L. Connelly, S. Trevis Certo, R. Duane Ireland, and Christopher R. Reutzel
“Signaling Theory: A Review and Assessment”

To celebrate these award-winning papers, readers will be able to access the papers free for the next 30 days! Congratulations again to the authors from Management INK!