Journal of Management Studies—Managing Social Evaluations in A Complex and Evolving World

When:  Apr 1, 2023 from 09:00 to 23:59 (ET)
Associated with  Entrepreneurship (ENT)
Journal of Management Studies


Submission deadline: 1 April 2023

Guest Editors:
Marco Clemente (IESEG, France)
Gokhan Ertug (Singapore Management University, Singapore)
Michael Etter (King's College London, UK)
Scott Graffin (University of Georgia, US)
Anastasiya Zavyalova (Rice University, US)
JMS Editor:
Yuliya Snihur (TBS Education, France)
This special issue will provide a platform for scholars interested in studying social evaluations, a research topic that has grown tremendously in recent years. Such research includes a range of concepts – including status (Podolny, 1993; Ertug and Castellucci, 2013; Graffin et al., 2013), reputation (Rindova and Martins, 2012; Ertug et al., 2016), legitimacy (Patriotta et al., 2011; Suchman, 1995; Bitektine, 2011; Suddaby et al., 2017, Tost, 2011), organizational misconduct (Greve et al., 2010; Palmer, 2012), scandals (Clemente and Gabbioneta, 2017, Piazza and Jourdan, 2018; Clemente et al., 2016;), stigma (Vergne, 2012), celebrity (Rindova et al., 2006; Wade et al., 2006) and infamy (Zavyalova et al. 2017), as well as studies that look at social evaluators, such as news media (Clemente and Gabbioneta, 2017), critics (Kovács et al., 2013), rating agencies (Espeland & Sauder, 2007), and, increasingly, individual evaluators empowered through digital media (Etter et al., 2019).
Although the literature on social evaluations has burgeoned in the last three decades, it stays fragmented (Pollock et al., 2019). Several issues have emerged, including construct proliferation (Bitektine, 2011; Deephouse and Carter, 2005, Devers et al., 2009), an increasing range of theoretical approaches, multilevel perspectives (Bitektine and Haack, 2015), as well as methodological (Snelson, 2016, Roulet et al., 2017; Bitektine et al., 2020) and empirical challenges (Hannigan et al., 2019). It has become clear that different social evaluation constructs overlap with each other and that there are common challenges and opportunities for future work (Pollock et al., 2019).
This special issue is timely, given the increasing complexity and dynamism of the environment where organizations operate. Organizational and strategy research has long studied industries characterized by a high velocity (Eisenhardt, 1989) and hyper-competition (D'Aveni, 2010). So, while such an environment is not new, what used to be an exception has often become the norm. Terms like VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment and strategic agility have become common expressions in the business world across industries (Bennett and Lemoine, 2014; Wang et al., 2021). Furthermore, the digitalization of information, rise of social media, and stakeholder pressure on companies to address grand challenges (e.g., climate change, economic and social inequality) have made managing social expectations increasingly difficult and important for both established firms and new ventures. Such a context raises many questions for social evaluation research, especially about the fragility and stability of social evaluations and what organizations can do to influence or respond to social expectations.
We envision a special issue to help unify social evaluation scholars by providing a platform to discuss common challenges and explore cross-fertilization of theories and methodologies. We are particularly interested in investigating questions that are related to managing social evaluations in an increasingly complex and evolving environment within and across levels (e.g., Bitektine and Haack, 2015; Ravasi et al., 2018). In this way, we aim to appeal to a wide audience of social evaluation scholars and also engage with the challenges of today's world. While the research area on social evaluations has grown steadily in the last few years, there remain limitations in the literature and a significant set of open questions, which keeps getting replenished by the contemporary relevance of this topic (i.e., the need for us to understand, theorize about, and explain what is happening in our world today).
One of the shortcomings of the literature on social evaluations is that scholars often focus on different constructs within their own streams of work, which remain distinct and separate from each other. This masks the fact that some of the challenges in the literature are common to multiple sub-streams of research within social evaluations, including a shortage of multilevel views, outdated methodologies for assessing social evaluations, and an underemphasis on the evolving nature of social evaluations in the era of digital media. Indeed, in recent years, firms have been increasingly held accountable for not only their financial performance but also their ESG performance. Thus, in addition to the increasing pace of information disclosure, the metrics by which firms and executives are being evaluated are also evolving. Relatedly, new ventures can now access much larger audiences of social evaluators through digital media, creating opportunities for the rapid spread of new ideas and business models (Seidel et al., 2020), but also risking overly optimistic expectations and evaluations for such newly minted celebrities. Having a debate that can bring about the cross-fertilization of ideas across different constructs will be helpful to researchers in the area and enhance the practical relevance of the insights that come from such research.
Key topics:
We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions to this SI. Following is a non-exhaustive list of potential question areas. We are interested in addressing these questions both for established firms and new ventures.
Common challenges in social evaluations research:
  1. What are the opportunities to incorporate multilevel theorizing and analysis into research on the increasingly dynamic and complex nature of social evaluations (Bitektine and Haack, 2015; Ravasi et al., 2018)? 
  1. Given the increasing polarization within and across stakeholder groups, what are the dark (or negative) sides of positive social evaluations for new and established firms – such as celebrity and reputation (Zavyalova et al., 2016) – and the potential advantages/benefits of negative social evaluations – such as infamy and stigma? 
  1. Social evaluations have been typically theorized as related to one specific audience (Roulet, 2019) and unidimensional (Roulet and Clemente, 2018). What are the implications when considering multiple audiences and multiple dimensions (Fini et al., 2018; Ertug et al., 2016)? Do multiple audiences differentially respond to the same information? And what are the implications of considering multiple dimensions of social evaluations (Bitektine, 2011; Bundy et al., 2021)?
Managing social evaluations in a complex and evolving world:
  1. What is the connection between social evaluations and temporality (Ravasi et al., 2018)? To what extent do social evaluations remain stable or become fragile over time? What can influence stability and fluidity, and what are their consequences? How can organizations create, maintain, or change their social evaluations within an evolving and complex environment with discursive techniques including framing, narratives, or storytelling (Rhee & Fiss, 2014; Snihur et al., 2021; Vaara et al., 2016)? 
  1. Many pivotal studies on social evaluations were developed in the pre-social media era. What are the implications of social evaluations in a world of increasing consumption of social media and digital media more generally (Castello et al., 2016; Etter et al., 2019)? 
  1. Organizations are increasingly expected to take a stand on social issues (e.g., climate change, social movements, discrimination, inequality) (Hambrick & Wowak, 2021). How do social evaluations of such organizations change based on whether and how they take a stand? And how can organizations manage scandals and diverging social judgments around contested social issues? 
  1. Previous research has typically looked at one main social evaluator in a field or combined evaluations of multiple social evaluators into one construct. How and why do multiple evaluators interact (e.g., Illia et al., 2021)? Why is there heterogeneity among evaluations of multiple evaluators? How do observers make sense of the potential variance across evaluators? 
  1. Social evaluators, such as news media and ranking agencies, not only evaluate organizations but are also being evaluated themselves by internal and external stakeholders. How do stakeholders evaluate the credibility of social evaluators, and what are the consequences? How do social evaluators react to being evaluated? How do observers make sense of potential divergent evaluations?
  1. Are current data, operationalizations, and methodologies used to study social evaluations up to the task of capturing the way these evaluations happen and affect organizations? How can new methods, such as machine learning, automated sentiment analysis (Etter et al., 2018), and topic modeling (Hannigan et al., 2019), be applied to the contemporary study of social evaluations? 
In the interest of maximizing submission quality, the guest editors of this Special Issue will hold a workshop in early 2023. The workshop will involve the guest editors hosting roundtable sessions in an interactive format. Workshop participation does not guarantee acceptance of a paper in the Special Issue, nor is it required to participate in this workshop for a paper to be considered for publication. Details about the workshop will be announced at a later date.

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