The Demotivating Effects of Communicating a Social-Political Stance: Field Experimental Evidence from an Online Labor Market Platform
Accepted, Management Science
38 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2019 Last revised: 11 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 10, 2019
Despite a recent surge in corporate activism, with firm leaders communicating about social-political issues unrelated to their core businesses, we know little about its strategic implications. This paper examines the effect of an employer communicating a stance about a social-political issue on employee motivation, using a two-phase, pre-registered field experiment in an online labor market platform. Results demonstrate an asymmetric treatment effect of taking a stance depending on whether the employee agrees or disagrees with that stance. Namely, I observe a demotivating effect of taking a stance on a social-political issue with which employees disagree, and no statistically significant motivating effect of taking a stance on a social-political issue with which employees agree. This study has important implications for the nascent scholarship on corporate activism, as well as the scholarship on strategic human capital management.
Keywords: corporate political activism, CEO activism, field experiment, employee motivation, productivity
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