Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Psychology

Supervisor

John P. Meyer

Abstract

Research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown in parallel to organizations’ adoption of the triple bottom line (economic, environmental, social) approach to performance, and stakeholders’ expectations for organizations to contribute to a greater social good (Aguinis & Glavas, 2012). As a burgeoning area of research, the CSR literature has mostly been conducted from a macro-level (organization-level) perspective aiming to answer questions about the implications of CSR for organizations and society. Micro-level (individual-level) research is comparatively less common, but is beginning to grow as well (Rupp & Mallory, 2015).

While micro-level research has made significant progress toward answering some important questions, it is limited by a lack of knowledge and guiding theory of the psychological foundations of CSR that explain when and why it affects organizational stakeholders such as employees or job-seekers (Aguinis & Glavas, 2013). The CSR literature is also highly-fragmented and full of confusing parallels and inconsistencies. It is characterized by numerous conceptual definitions (Dahlsrud, 2008) and measurement tools (Morgeson, Aguinis, Waldman, & Siegel, 2013), making it challenging for researchers to agree on what actually constitutes CSR and compare results.

The research presented here applies a new approach to conceptualizing and measuring CSR in hopes of overcoming the limitations mentioned above. First, a theoretical model is described that distinguishes between “CSR content” and “CSR features” and proposes four CSR features that are likely to be of relevance to stakeholders: CSR-identity alignment, CSR commitment, employee involvement in CSR, and CSR proactivity. The model also proposes attributions as the primary psychological mechanism explaining how CSR features, in combination, influence employees’ organizational commitment and job-seekers’ organizational attraction.

This model was tested through two studies. The first study involved the development of a self-report measure of CSR features and the distribution of a survey to a sample of 371 employees in a variety of organizations. Results revealed that CSR features and attributions significantly predicted employees’ organizational commitment. The second study utilized an experimental methodology to examine the effects of different combinations of CSR features on organizational attractiveness. A sample of 397 students were randomly assigned to view the websites of two fictitious organizations – one that engaged in CSR and one that did not – across eight different conditions (plus a no-CSR control condition) that differed in terms of high/low combinations of three CSR features (i.e., alignment, employee involvement, and commitment). Participants were asked to play the role of job-seekers and rate the attractiveness of each organization. Results revealed that engaging in CSR significantly raised participants’ ratings of organizational attractiveness, but the CSR feature manipulations did not have an effect. Directions for future research, limitations, and implications for theory and practice are discussed.


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