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Managing Organizational Legitimacy in the California Cattle Industry: The Construction and Effectiveness of Verbal Accounts

Kimberly D. Elsbach
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 57-88
DOI: 10.2307/2393494
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393494
Page Count: 32
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Managing Organizational Legitimacy in the California Cattle Industry: The Construction and Effectiveness of Verbal Accounts
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Abstract

Through a series of three inductive and deductive studies, I describe how spokespersons from the California cattle industry constructed and effectively used verbal accounts to manage perceptions of organizational legitimacy following controversial events. Findings of Study 1 suggest that organizational accounts are constructed by linking two forms of accounts: acknowledgments or denials, with two contents of accounts: references to institutional or technical characteristics of the organization. Findings of Studies 2 and 3 suggest that, in protecting organizational legitimacy (1) acknowledgments are more effective than denials, (2) references to institutionalized characteristics are more effective than references to technical characteristics, and (3) accounts combining acknowledgments with references to institutionalized characteristics are more effective than accounts with only one of these components. Effectiveness appears to depend on audiences' perceptions of the controversy, expertise in the area of controversy, and expectations of organizational responses. Overall, findings suggest that concepts from institutional and impression management theories may be combined to improve our understanding of organizational accounts and thus enhance models of symbolic management.

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