The Downside of CFO Function-Based Language Incongruity
Academy of Management Journal, Forthcoming
59 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2021
Date Written: September 17, 2021
The prior literature on role congruity theory has revolved around demographic-based expectations, emphasizing role incongruity derived from a mismatch between prescriptive expectations of distinct roles. In this paper, we depart from this traditional focus on between-role incongruity and explore an alternative source of role incongruity by examining how language can trigger the within-role incongruity of function-based expectations. Through an analysis of conference call transcripts and contracts for 7,649 deals during 2003–2018, we show that the incongruity of function-based expectations manifested through the language of the CFO increases banks’ perceived hazards, leading them to employ more debt contract covenants. In addition, by investigating the moderating effects of corresponding CEO language and media sentiment, we show how the social context and sentiment toward the firm weaken this incongruity effect. We discuss the theoretical implications of our study for future research on the sources of role incongruity and the antecedents of contract design.
Keywords: Contract design, Communication, CFO, Role incongruity
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