Sub-theme 32: Bridging Perceptions of Organizations: Identities, Images and Reputations

Heiko Breitsohl
University of Wuppertal, Germany
Janet M. Dukerich
University of Texas at Austin, USA
Kimberly D. Elsbach
University of California, Davis, USA

Call for Papers

The ways in which individuals perceive and relate to organizations has been a core theme in organizational research. Organizational members form relations to the organization to the point of partially defining themselves in terms of what the organization is (Albert et al., 2000; Kreiner & Ashforth, 2004), although this may vary greatly in degree and valence (Elsbach, 1999). The overlap of individual and organizational identities (i.e. identification) has been found in many studies to have favorable consequences such as increased need satisfaction, cooperative behavior, performance, and job satisfaction (Ashforth et al., 2008), while some authors have pointed to possible negative consequences like impeded learning or suppressed dissent (Dukerich et al., 1998).

In addition, members of various organizational audiences scrutinize and evaluate organizations, forming perceptions and judgments such as legitimacy and reputation, which are shaped in part by active impression management by the organization (Elsbach, 2003). The decisions based on these external perceptions have been found to profoundly affect organizational success and survival (Deephouse & Suchman, 2008). Thus, the perceptions of both organizational members and external audiences bear important consequences for the development of organizations. A common theme – and possible linking pin – in both perspectives (and the associated streams of research) is organizational identity, as it provides a reference according to which both internal members and external audiences may form their respective perceptions (Albert et al., 2000).

The purpose of this sub-theme is to bring together a group of researchers interested in finding new explanations for behavior in and around organizations by investigating internal and external perceptions. Like earlier works in this vein (e.g. Elsbach & Glynn, 1996; Kreiner & Ashforth, 2004), progress towards a better understanding of these phenomena may come from studies employing a variety of methods. We therefore invite papers using qualitative or quantitative research approaches, but also conceptually oriented work on the constructs and topics outlined above.


Some of the questions we would like to address within this sub-theme include (but are not limited to):

  • How do external perceptions of organizations (legitimacy, reputation, etc.) influence members’ internal perceptions (identification, identity, etc.)?
  • How do member perceptions and behaviors change external impressions of organizations?
  • What are the causes and consequences of different "types" of identification, such as disidentification, ambivalent and neutral identification?
  • What is the interplay between levels of identities and identifications (self, team, occupation, organization)?
  • What is the role played by multiple (possibly conflicting) identifications?
  • How are internal perceptions and behaviors impacted by negative (temporary or permanent) external evaluations, such as stigma or identity threat?



Albert, Stuart, Blake Ashforth & Jane Dutton (eds.) (2000): 'Organizational identity and identification: charting new waters and building new bridges.' Academy of Management Review, 25 (1), 13–17.
Ashforth, Blake E., Spencer H. Harrison & Kevin G. Corley (2008): 'Identification in organizations: an examination of four fundamental questions.' Journal of Management, 34 (3), 325–374.
Deephouse, David L. & Mark Suchman (2008): 'Legitimacy in organizational institutionalism.' In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, R. Suddaby & K. Sahlin-Andersson (eds.): The Sage Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 49–77.
Dukerich, Janet M., Robert Kramer & Judi McLean Parks (1998): 'The dark side of organizational identification.' In: D.A. Whetten and P.C. Godfrey (eds.): Identity in Organizations: Building Theory through Conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 245–256.
Elsbach, Kimberly D. (1999): 'An expanded model of organizational identification.' Research in Organizational Behavior, 21: 163–200.
Elsbach, Kimberly D. (2003): 'Organizational perception management.' Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 297–332.
Elsbach, Kimberly D. & Mary Ann Glynn (1996): 'Believing your own "PR": embedding identification in strategic reputation.' Advances in Strategic Management, 13, 65–90.
Kreiner, G.E. & B.E. Ashforth (2004): 'Evidence toward an expanded model of organizational identification.' Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25 (1), 1–27.


Heiko Breitsohl is Assistant Professor at Schumpeter School of Business and Economics, University of Wuppertal, Germany. His research interests include organizational perceptions (organizational legitimacy, identity, and commitment) and their antecedents (impression management, corporate social responsibility, and threatening events).
Janet M. Dukerich is the Harkins & Company Centennial Chair and Professor of Management at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. Her current research interests focus on organizational identification processes, the creation and maintenance of organizational identity, reputation management, and corruption control processes in organizations.
Kimberly D. Elsbach is Professor of Management and Chancellor's Fellow at the University of California, Davis, USA. Her research focuses on the perception and management of individual and organizational images, identities, and reputations.