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
Date Written: November 6, 2018
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
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