Business and Management INK

Addressing Reputation’s Reputation in Management Research Business and Management INK
reputation conceptual meter, isolated on white background

Addressing Reputation’s Reputation in Management Research

February 25, 2022 1682

In this post, Owen Parker and his co-authors Ke Gong and Rachel Mui reflect on their research paper, “Reputation Belongs In More Strategic Decision Models (And Some Data To Measure It,” published in Strategic Organization.

Speedometer-type dial for reputation ranging from bad to excellent
Despite the primacy of reputation to a firm, finding good measures for the appropriate conceptualization of reputation is hard. (Image: iStock)

The idea for this article came about when we considered how organization after organization responded amid the crucible of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public nature of many decisions—whether to shut down, fire or furlough employees, alter the business model, etc.—kept reminding us of the predictions of the reputation-discretion framework the first author had published with Ryan Krause and Cindy Devers in 2019. While reputation’s importance for firms long preceded COVID-19, it seemed increasingly prevalent during the pandemic as firm after firm seemed either “locked in” to certain actions or objectives by the reputations they had cultivated, or “freed up” to pursue whatever they wished—as long as their reputations weren’t sacrificed in the process.

Owen Parker, Ke Gong and Rachel Mui
Owen Parker, left, Ke Gong and Rachel Mui

We saw this in how Amazon, whose core stakeholders (customers and investors) cared more about profits and on-time deliveries than workers’ rights forced employees back to warehouses and clamped down on attempts to unionize. We, all of Amazon’s newly homebound customers, expected Amazon to fill the void of lockdowns, and investors expected the firm to exploit the opportunity for e-commerce amid brick-and-mortar closures. Amazon could not both maintain employees’ time-off flexibility and fulfill the profit and fulfillment objectives its reputation had mandated.

Conversely, we—the American public—might have generally paid lip service to the sad state of workers’ rights at Amazon, but didn’t (seem to) care much as long as we got our toothpaste delivered overnight and our wet wipes by Sunday. Amazon’s top managers likely felt funneled into a narrow set of decisions by the stakeholder pressure their reputation had brought about, but also probably felt largely immune to backlash in other areas as long as its reputation was vindicated. 

After realizing how the pandemic was throwing into stark relief these reputation-based patterns of strategic decisions, we thought more broadly about how much strategic organization researchers could benefit from including reputation in more studies concerning strategic decision outcomes.

But then we hit a wall that stymies most reputation researchers: finding good measures for the appropriate conceptualization of reputation. In fact, reputation’s own reputation in management research meant that proselytizing the benefits of reputation’s wider use would fall flat if we did not also provide pragmatic ways to address some of its current shortcomings. So, in addition to providing guidelines for how and when scholars should consider the inclusion of reputation in their own research, we also focused on providing five sources of reputation data, explaining their utility, and illustrating how scholars could use freelancers to collect their own data, if existing data is not easily accessible or interpretable.

In addition to studies concerning strategic decision outcomes at the firm-level, we think the reputation-discretion framework and the guidelines we provide can also help explain differences in how political administrations handle crises and set legislative priorities, but this is a different level of analysis that has separate challenges. Until then, we look forward to how readers use our guidelines and the free data we provide in this essay.

Owen Parker is an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the College of Business at University of Texas at Arlington. His research focuses on how the reputations of firms influence their strategic decisions. His work has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review, the Strategic Management Journal, the Journal of Management, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, the Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, and the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management. Ke Gong is an Assistant Professor Of Management at The University of Southern Mississippi. Rachel Mui is an Assistant Professor at the College of Business Administration at Kansas State University.

View all posts by Owen Parker, Ke Gong and Rachel Mui

Related Articles

Exploring Public-Private Partnerships in the National Capital Region of the United States
Business and Management INK
July 12, 2024

Exploring Public-Private Partnerships in the National Capital Region of the United States

Read Now
With or Without You: Career Capital Development as Experienced by MBA Alumni
Business and Management INK
July 11, 2024

With or Without You: Career Capital Development as Experienced by MBA Alumni

Read Now
Understanding HR Managers’ Role in Shaping Fair Organizational Policies and Practice
Business and Management INK
July 9, 2024

Understanding HR Managers’ Role in Shaping Fair Organizational Policies and Practice

Read Now
Corporate Health Policy: Pioneering a Fresh Avenue of Research
Business and Management INK
July 3, 2024

Corporate Health Policy: Pioneering a Fresh Avenue of Research

Read Now
Responsible Management Education Week 2024: Sage Asks ‘What Does It Mean to You?’

Responsible Management Education Week 2024: Sage Asks ‘What Does It Mean to You?’

Sage used the opportunity of Responsible Business Management week 2024 to ask its authors, editors, and contacts what responsible management education means to them.

Read Now
‘Push, Pull, Dance’: Public Health Procurement – Saving Lives and Preventing Harm

‘Push, Pull, Dance’: Public Health Procurement – Saving Lives and Preventing Harm

‘Push, Pull, Dance’ seeks to reimagine ethical supply chains in public health procurement. In this article, Olga Martin-Ortega, Martina Trusgnach, and Cindy Berman offer a new theoretical framework for tackling human and labor rights violations, including modern slavery, through public procurement.

Read Now
Beyond Net-Zero Targets: When Do Companies Maximize Their Potential to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Beyond Net-Zero Targets: When Do Companies Maximize Their Potential to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Companies with a better understanding of climate change, the authors argue, have realized the need to plan actions beyond the business level.

Read Now
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments