Talking the walk: the deflation response to legitimacy challenges

Glen Whelan, Frank G.A. de Bakker, Frank den Hond, Judy N. Muthuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Organizations need legitimacy to be able to operate effectively. Consequently, and just like their participants, multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) need to respond when faced with legitimacy challenges from external parties. We build on current theory to identify three organizational elements that can be made the subject of legitimacy critique – i.e., statutory procedures, objectives and mechanisms – and use these elements to structure our analysis of a conflict-ridden case concerning the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Whereas prior work suggests that organizations can respond to such conflicts in a fashion consistent with either moral entrapment or decoupling, we show that organizations can also respond by deflating their statutory procedures and objectives. A deflationary response can help organizations maintain their validity by diminishing the ability of external parties to advance propriety-legitimacy critiques against them. By examining this alternative response, we expand the scope and refine the analytic detail by which organizational legitimacy conflicts can be investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalManagement
Volume22
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)636-663
ISSN1286-4692
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 512 Business and Management
  • conflict
  • deflation
  • legitimacy
  • multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • United Nations Global Compact

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising

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