Organizations are subject to social evaluations by their stakeholders, such as customers, investors, employees, and communities.
These social evaluations form the basis of perceptions, judgments and actions targeted at the organization (George et al.,
2016). Several social evaluation constructs have been theorized and tested in previous research, including legitimacy (Suchman,
1995), reputation (Lange et al., 2011), status (Podolny, 1993), celebrity (Rindova et al., 2006), and stigma (Devers et al.,
2009). Furthermore, the growing body of research on the effects of surprising negative experiences, such as organizational
wrongdoing and scandals, underscores the practical relevance of social evaluation research (George et al., 2016). The goal
of the proposed sub-theme is to facilitate a conversation on social evaluations, encourage novel and insightful research,
address unmet needs in the application of social evaluations theory to real-world managerial problems, and create an international
community of social evaluation scholars.
Specifically, the sub-theme seeks to bring greater clarity to social evaluation constructs. One way to achieve this is to acknowledge that research on social evaluations bears relevance at different levels of analyses, including products, individuals, organizations, industries, organizational fields and society as a whole. Our proposed sub-theme thus not only seeks to highlight the need for exploring microfoundations of social evaluations, but also suggests going beyond single-level analyses (micro or macro) and providing explanations for how phenomena at the micro level are linked to higher-level structures and outcomes (Bitektine & Haack, 2015). In our sub-theme, we seek to advance research on social evaluations that explicitly models multiple levels and their interactions and that develops theory about the underlying processes and contingencies of these multi-level interactions.
The multi-level nature of social evaluation constructs requires that researchers develop research designs that match this complexity and advance the sophistication of their measurement approaches. Besides welcoming conceptual contributions, the proposed sub-theme thus encourages submissions which complement the methodological toolkit in social evaluations research, explore correlations and interactions of different types of evaluations, and rigorously test the fundamental propositions and conditions suggested in extant research. We believe that the exploration of these and other prominent topics with novel methods can not only provide validation to many of the literature’s tenets and open new directions for future research, but also prompt the acknowledgement of implicit assumptions underlying extant research and facilitate the testability and theoretical development of social evaluation constructs.
Furthermore, we have limited knowledge of which type of social evaluation produces most benefits (or hazards) in a given social context, and the recommendations for practitioners formulated in the literature on social evaluations to date remain very general. We therefore encourage submissions that contribute to a better understanding of the practical relevance of social evaluations research. For instance, with the widespread use of social media, stakeholders’ perceptions and the way they are publicly expressed online have become very important for firms’ success. However, most managers are not proactive about monitoring, measuring, and using social evaluations to the benefits of their organizations. These “applied” aspects of social evaluations research merit further attention in future works.
In line with these considerations, we invite (but do not by any means restrict) submissions addressing one or several of the following questions:
How do different evaluators assess organizations, practices, structures, and other types of social entities, and how do individual judgments cumulatively create judgments at the collective level with implications for macro-level structures and outcomes? Which processes and mechanisms link the “micro” and “macro” of social evaluations? How do social evaluations of individuals differ from social evaluations of organizations and categories?
How do different types of social evaluations affect each other? We seek to push the exploration of these questions beyond the recognition of existence of the “halo effect” in social judgments (Sinclair, 1988) and draw researchers’ attention to a more nuanced analysis of interactions between different types of social evaluations.
How do evaluators select which type of evaluation to make or to rely on in different social contexts? Why do different evaluators view the same organization and its actions differently? Why do the assessment criteria of judgments change over time (Huy et al., 2014)? Which criteria do evaluators draw on when confronted with multiple sets of criteria present in a situation of institutional complexity?
What leads evaluators to make (un)favorable assessments about an organization and under what conditions do evaluators view prior assessments as an asset or as a liability (Bundy & Pfarrer, 2015; Zavyalova et al., 2016)? Can social evaluations be a liability at the micro-level, but a benefit at the macro-level (or vice-versa)?
Bitektine & Haack (2015) have theorized that evaluators who do not endorse an entity privately may nonetheless believe that others perceive it as appropriate and therefore silence their unfavorable judgments. Under which conditions do evaluators disclose their silenced judgments, stop conforming to that entity’s behavioral prescriptions, and engage in institutional change efforts (Tost, 2011)?
Which methodological tools can be used to identify and delineate underlying processes and mechanisms that operate within social evaluations? What are the opportunities and pitfalls of mixed-methods approaches in exploring the multiple levels of social evaluations?
Various actors have been actively engaged not only in the interpretation of “objective” facts, but also in the social construction of “alternative” facts. What are the processes and mechanisms through which these alternative facts are constructed and objectified? What are the consequences of this trend for mass media, social media, and other types of actors implicated in this process? How can research on social evaluations integrate these new realities of “post-truth politics”?