Organizational virtues and organizational anthropomorphism

Martin, Felix (2022) Organizational virtues and organizational anthropomorphism. Journal of Business Ethics, 177 (1). pp. 1-17. ISSN 0167-4544

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Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human features to non-human subjects. Anthropomorphised organizations acquire in the minds of their members a unique identity, which becomes capable of guiding members’ motivations, with important managerial implications. Ashforth et al. (2018) offered a theoretical model of anthropomorphism in organizations, including “top down” and “bottom up” processes of organizational anthropomorphism as antecedents, and sensemaking and the sense of social connection of the organization as outcomes. Using SEM, this study operationalizes Ashforth et al.’s (2018) model using a two-trait scale of organizational virtue (Empathy and Courage) derived from Chun (2005), including measures of CSR and OCB as antecedents, and organizational justice and affective commitment as outcomes. The model is tested on survey data from seven UK managed service organizations in the hotels, logistics and legal sectors. As secondary contribution, moderation analysis is undertaken by industry, offering further insight into the evaluation of organizational anthropomorphism. Firstly, we note that high evaluations of Empathy influence evaluations of Courage through a halo effect. Secondly, we note that heuristics evaluation of the firm’s CSR practice also influences perceptions of Empathy and Courage. The paper also includes a discussion of the critique of organizational virtues by virtue ethicists in an effort to advance the dialogue between the two traditions.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Business Ethics
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20 Jan 2021 11:00
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 09:49