How Do Individuals Judge Organizational Legitimacy? Effects of Attributed Motives and Credibility on Organizational Legitimacy

Business and Society 59 (3):545-576 (2020)
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Abstract

This experimental study examines individuals’ legitimacy judgments. We develop a model that demonstrates the role of attributed motives and corporate credibility for the evaluation of organizational legitimacy and test this model with an experimental vignette study. Our results show that when a corporate activity creates benefits for the firm—in addition to social benefits—individuals attribute more extrinsic motives. Extrinsic motives are ascribed when a corporation is perceived as being driven by external rewards as opposed to an altruistic commitment to a social cause. Extrinsic motives negatively affect corporate credibility and organizational legitimacy judgments. This article contributes to a better understanding of the complex process of organizational legitimacy judgment by shedding light on the individual’s perspective and expounding the relationship between attributed motives, corporate credibility, and organizational legitimacy.

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