Capitalizing on Categories of Social Construction: A Review and Integration of Organizational Research on Symbolic Management Strategies

Academy of Management Annals (2019), Vol. 13, No. 2, 375-413

96 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2019

See all articles by Andrew Schnackenberg

Andrew Schnackenberg

University of Denver - Department of Management

Jonathan Bundy

Arizona State University (ASU) - Management Department

Corinne Coen

Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, Department of Organizational Behavior, Students

James Westphal

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: July 18, 2019

Abstract

Symbols are habitually used by organizations to transform the meaning of their actions and intentions in ways that enable them to manage complex stakeholder relationships and achieve competitive advantage. However, applications of symbolic management across disciplines and research traditions in the organization sciences are fraught with theoretical ambiguity pertaining to the meaning of symbols, the value of symbols to organizations, the tactics used by organizations to manage symbols, and the outcomes of symbolic management. Thus, we review the literature to solidify our theoretical understanding of organizational symbolic management. Based on our review, we advance a process framework of symbolic management to describe the relationships between organizational approaches to managing symbols, the forms of symbolic value organizations seek to create and capture, and the prevailing outcomes of symbolic management. Using this framework, we also examine the literature for insights pertaining to the management of symbols for competitive advantage in separate contexts of organization-stakeholder interaction, leading to the development of a strategic framework of symbolic management. We conclude by outlining a set of directions for future research that evoke pressing questions about the role of symbolic management in organizations to encourage new pastures of scholarly inquiry.

Keywords: symbolic management, impression management, organizational identity, institutional entrepreneurship, perspective making, sense making, social judgments, social evaluations

Suggested Citation

Schnackenberg, Andrew and Bundy, Jonathan and Coen, Corinne and Westphal, James, Capitalizing on Categories of Social Construction: A Review and Integration of Organizational Research on Symbolic Management Strategies (July 18, 2019). Academy of Management Annals (2019), Vol. 13, No. 2, 375-413, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3422323

Andrew Schnackenberg

University of Denver - Department of Management ( email )

2101 S. University Blvd.
Denver, CO
United States

Jonathan Bundy (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Management Department ( email )

Tempe, AZ 85287-4006
United States

Corinne Coen

Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, Department of Organizational Behavior, Students ( email )

Cleveland, OH
United States

James Westphal

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

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