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How Do European SME Owner–Managers Make Sense of ‘Stakeholder Management’?: Insights from a Cross-National Study

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Abstract

The vast majority of empirical research on stakeholder management has traditionally focused on multinational corporations. Only in recent years, scholars have begun to pay attention to the stakeholder management concept in relation to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The few existing studies in this area, however, discuss SMEs as a context free category or remain focused on single country analysis. This cross-national empirical research investigates SME owner–managers’ perceptions of stakeholder management in six European countries. The comparative analysis is followed by a discussion of how institutional, cultural and linguistic contexts can influence owner–managers’ sensemaking of stakeholder management. Our study questions the universality of specific management terms and proposes that more attention should be paid to the institutional, cultural and linguistic environments that shape economic activity in different parts of Europe.

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Notes

  1. RGT exercise starts with asking respondents to draw three random cards which have the individual elements written on them, to group two elements together which they think are more alike than the third one and then describe the difference between the grouped together elements (emergent pole) and the other one (implicit pole).

  2. This construct was supplied only in the Italian and in the Spanish study.

  3. This sample size was chosen as it is deemed sufficiently large for a cognitive study that uses repertory grid technique (Easterby-Smith 1980).

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the European Business Ethics Network (EBEN), as this research has benefitted from a special grant from EBEN’s cross-national project fund. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful feedback and comments.

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Correspondence to Hans-Jörg Schlierer.

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Schlierer, HJ., Werner, A., Signori, S. et al. How Do European SME Owner–Managers Make Sense of ‘Stakeholder Management’?: Insights from a Cross-National Study. J Bus Ethics 109, 39–51 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1378-3

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