Maintaining Organizational Legitimacy During Ideological Disruptions and Societal Divisions: The Role of Robust Organizational Identity Work

60 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018 Last revised: 7 Jul 2019

See all articles by Dorothee Winkler

Dorothee Winkler

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration

Florian Überbacher

University of Zurich

Andreas Georg Scherer

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration

Date Written: November 6, 2018

Abstract

We conduct a longitudinal, revelatory and qualitative case study about the US electronic vehicle manufacturer Tesla to investigate the conditions and organizational identity claims that enable organizational representatives to maintain organizational legitimacy in the United States as an example of an ideologically disrupted and divided society. We uncovered that Elon Musk, as Tesla’s spokesperson, mobilizes two different types of what we refer to as ‘robust organizational identity work’ (i.e. connecting work and bridging work). Together, these enabled Musk to both retain Tesla’s good relations with the leftwing media and to simultaneously appease the rightwing media outlets, thus enabling Tesla to maintain its legitimacy in a divided society. The ‘connecting work’ portrays Tesla as ideologically open and appeals to different, highly pluralistic stakeholder demands, while the ‘bridging work’ places Tesla in a diplomatic role that serves to de-polarize an ideologically highly divided society. We contribute to the literature on organizational legitimacy, robust action and leverage political ideologies literature into organization studies.

Keywords: Organizational Legitimation, Robust Action, Political Ideologies, Societal Division, Organizational Identity, Media, Qualitative Research Methods

Suggested Citation

Winkler, Dorothee and Überbacher, Florian and Scherer, Andreas Georg, Maintaining Organizational Legitimacy During Ideological Disruptions and Societal Divisions: The Role of Robust Organizational Identity Work (November 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3106733 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3106733

Dorothee Winkler (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration

Universitätsstrasse 84
Zurich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Florian Überbacher

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Andreas Georg Scherer

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration ( email )

Plattenstrasse 14
Zurich, 8032
Switzerland
+41 44-63 45302 (Phone)
+41 44-63 45301 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.business.uzh.ch/professorships/as.html

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