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Corporate Attributions as Strategic Illusions of Management Control

Gerald R. Salancik and James R. Meindl
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 29, No. 2 (Jun., 1984), pp. 238-254
DOI: 10.2307/2393176
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393176
Page Count: 17
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Corporate Attributions as Strategic Illusions of Management Control
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Abstract

This paper examines the reasons given by CEOs to explain their firms' performance in annual stockholder reports over an 18-year period, comparing firms with stable and unstable performance. We argue that the managements of unstable firms, lacking real control over organizational outcomes, strategically manipulate causal attributions to manage impressions of their control. As evidence of this, these managements claim responsibility for both positive and negative outcomes more than do the managements of firms with stable performance, and, contrary to psychological theories, seem reluctant to attribute poor performance to uncontrollable environmental events. When environmental effects are cited, they are coupled with announcements of executive changes, thus implying to readers that management is taking steps to wrestle with its unruly environment. Evidence also indicates that these attributional strategies resulted in better future performance for the firms employing them.

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