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Scrooge Posing as Mother Teresa: How Hypocritical Social Responsibility Strategies Hurt Employees and Firms

Abstract

Extant research provides compelling conceptual and empirical arguments that company-external (e.g., philanthropic) as well as company-internal (i.e., employee-directed) CSR efforts positively affect employees, but does so largely in studies assessing effects from the two CSR types independently of each other. In contrast, this paper investigates external–internal CSR jointly, examining the effects of (in)consistent external–internal CSR strategies on employee attitudes, intentions, and behaviors. The research takes a social and moral identification theory view and advances the core hypothesis that inconsistent CSR strategies, defined as favoring external over internal stakeholders, trigger employees’ perceptions of corporate hypocrisy which, in turn, lead to emotional exhaustion and turnover. In Study 1, a cross-industry employee survey (n = 3410) indicates that inconsistent CSR strategies with larger external than internal efforts increase employees’ turnover intentions via perceived corporate hypocrisy and emotional exhaustion. In Study 2, a multi-source secondary dataset (n = 1902) demonstrates that inconsistent CSR strategies increase firms’ actual employee turnover. Combined, the two studies demonstrate the importance of taking into account the interests of both external and internal stakeholders of the firm when researching and managing CSR.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    See https://twitter.com/RBReich/status/402597081618984962 and http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/11/is_walmarts_request_of_associa.html.

  2. 2.

    See http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/06/07/corporate-social-responsibility-a-lever-for-employee-attraction-engagement/.

  3. 3.

    See Management Issues Ltd, at http://www.management-issues.com/news/773/csr-minus-hr--pr/. Accessed January 19th, 2018.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the action editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions for improvement.

Funding

This study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Grant Number SCHO-1605/2-1).

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Correspondence to Sabrina Scheidler.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 5.

Table 5 Study 1: Overview of measures and scale items

Appendix 2

See Table 6.

Table 6 Study 2: Overview of ICSR and ECSR measures derived from the ASSET4ESG pool

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Scheidler, S., Edinger-Schons, L.M., Spanjol, J. et al. Scrooge Posing as Mother Teresa: How Hypocritical Social Responsibility Strategies Hurt Employees and Firms. J Bus Ethics 157, 339–358 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3788-3

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Corporate hypocrisy
  • Inconsistent CSR strategies
  • Employee emotional exhaustion.
  • Employee turnover
  • Social and moral identification theory