Our research tidbits this week considers the delicate balance between stakeholder interests, consumer reaction, ethical behaviour, CSR and board composition.

Harmful stakeholder strategies
Stakeholder theory focuses on how more value is created if stakeholder relationships are governed by ethical principles such as integrity, respect, fairness, generosity and inclusiveness. However, it has not adequately addressed strategies that stakeholders perceive as harmful to their interests and how this perception can even lead some stakeholders to view the firm’s strategies as unethical.

To fill the void, this paper directly addresses strategies that stakeholders perceive as harmful to their interests, or what the authors refer to as harmful stakeholder strategies. Specifically, it identifies factors associated with stakeholder perceptions of harm that are likely to cause them to consider a strategy unethical, examines the negative implications for firms that pursue such strategies in terms of likely stakeholder responses and damage to stakeholder relationships, and provides theory to help explain how firms are likely to respond to stakeholder claims that a strategy is unethical, based on factors such as the strategic importance of the claim to the firm, how long the strategy has been in use, the costs of remediation, the risk of stakeholder mobilisation or new regulation, and whether firms can reasonably rationalise their actions.

Assessing harm allows a firm to make a more accurate estimate of the costs of a strategy and can assist managers in allocating resources intended to reduce or remediate harm.

Jeffrey S. Harrison & Andrew C. Wicks. 2021. Harmful Stakeholder Strategies.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(3), 405–419.

The Glass Pyramid: Informal gender status hierarchy on boards
Drawing on the status characteristic theory, the authors investigate the effect of gender on board directors’ status ranking and find that all else being equal, female directors’ status ranking is 81.48% of one position lower than that of male directors, a discrepancy that is attributable to gender.

The authors theorise on the mechanism that determines the ways in which the status value of gender on a board affects board interactions, and the authors predict how this mechanism influences firm outcomes, including excessive managerial spending, social responsibility performance, and firm risk.

The authors test their hypotheses in Chinese firms using an unbalanced panel that includes 5396 firm-year observations (86,019 director-year observations) for a period of 6 years and find them supported.

Lívia Markóczy, Sunny Li Sun & Jigao Zhu. 2021. The Glass Pyramid: Informal Gender Status Hierarchy on Boards.

Journal of Business Ethics, 168(4), 827–845

Women and multiple board memberships: Social capital and institutional pressure
We show unintended consequences of quota regulations to get women on boards. Board members may have different characteristics, and even among women, there are variations. The authors assume that the characteristics of the board members have an influence on their contributions to boards, to businesses as well as to society.

In this paper, the authors argue that different types of societal pressure to get women on boards have an influence on the social capital characteristics of the women getting multiple board memberships. The paper is drawing on institutional theory and social capital theory, and the authors distinguish between mimetic, normative, and coercive types of pressure. Through a cluster analysis of 58 Italian “golden skirts”, the authors show that different types of societal pressure may lead to differences in social capital characteristics.

The study has implications for the ongoing international debate about women and diversity on boards, and the authors propose developing a pressure theory for getting women on boards.

Alessandra Rigolini & Morten Huse. 2021. Women and Multiple Board Memberships: Social Capital and Institutional Pressure.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(3), 443–459.

Interaction between consumers’ personality, judgment of salesperson’s ethical treatment, and purchase
Successful marketing efforts and professional sales encounters often depend on consumer involvement in the purchase decision process itself, which in turn may impact firm performance. Despite the importance of consumer involvement, research has yet to fully explain the relationship between consumer personality characteristics and the nature of consumer purchase involvement.

This study explores the degree to which consumer perception of salesperson ethical treatment helps explain the relationship between consumer personality characteristics and nature of involvement. Data were collected from a large sample of working adults placed in two scenario-based positive professional sales encounters featuring an important purchase decision.

The results indicated that adult consumers’ personality characteristics functioned through judgment of salesperson ethical treatment to affect the nature of purchase involvement. Specifically, consumer judgment of salesperson ethical treatment fully mediated a positive relationship between internal locus of control and cognitive (as opposed to affective) involvement. By comparison, consumer judgment of a salesperson ethical treatment partially mediated the positive relationship between emotional awareness and cognitive (as opposed to affective) involvement.

The above findings were similar for informational and relational salesperson customer-orientated scenarios. Key implications for selling professionals and sales organisations are discussed, such as augmenting consumers’ self-assessments to increase their perceptions of salesperson ethics and purchase involvement. The limitations and recommendations for future research are also presented.

Connie R. Bateman & Sean R. Valentine. 2019. Consumers’ Personality Characteristics, Judgment of Salesperson Ethical Treatment, and Nature of Purchase Involvement.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(2), 309–331.

Socially responsible HRM and employees’ behaviours toward the environment?
Based on the person-organisation fit theory, this research aims to investigate how socially responsible HRM (SRHRM) positively affects employees’ organisational citizenship behaviours toward the environment (OCBE) by increasing person-organisation fit.

This study also captures the moderating effect of the perceived role of ethics and social responsibility (RESR) in influencing the indirect effect of SRHRM on OCBE via person-organisation fit. Data were collected from 302 employees in a state-owned chain hotel in Shanghai, China.

The results indicated that SRHRM indirectly influenced employee’s engagement in OCBE through person-organisation fit. The positive relationship between SRHRM and person-organisation fit and the indirect effect of SRHRM on OCBE via person-organisation fit were more significant when employees hold high rather than low levels of RESR. Research implications and prospects were also explored in this study.

Hongdan Zhao, Qiongyao Zhou, Peixu He & Cuiling Jiang. 2021. How and When Does Socially Responsible HRM Affect Employees’ Organizational Citizenship Behaviors Toward the Environment?

Journal of Business Ethics 169(2), 371–385.