Sub-theme 29: Values, Organizations and Institutions

David Chandler
University of Colorado Denver, USA
Ricardo G. Flores
Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada
Pursey P.M.A.R. Heugens
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

The goal of this sub-theme is to foster a discussion about how, when, and where to reinfuse values into organization theory. Although we believe passionately in this guiding purpose, we have no agenda in terms of how it should be achieved. On the contrary, we recognize there are a variety of good reasons for doing this, a range of different ways in which it can be done, and a number of particular research domains that could benefit from the effort.

  • First, our rationale for the sub-theme is conventionally scientific. Much contemporary research in sociology and psychology emphasizes that human behavior and judgment are strongly affected by moral considerations and suggests that values are central to personal identities and worldviews (Brewer & Roccas, 2001; Gibbs, 2013; Haidt, 2012; Hardy, 2006; Hitlin, 2003; Hitlin & Vaisey, 2013; Stets & Carter, 2012). By importing insights from this burgeoning literature, organization theorists can build more powerful and predictive models and construct more satisfactory explanations for organizational behavior and outcomes.

  • Second, our rationale for the sub-theme is also pragmatic and communicative. Values are a subject of profound concern to many practitioners, managers, and other organizational participants (Bansal, 2003; Gentile, 2010; Sayer, 2011). Many ‘real people’ believe that values are essential to organizational success and foundational to ethical cultures (Kraemer, 2015; Starratt, 2004). As such, our collective inattention to them appears, at a minimum, to constitute a significant lost opportunity for greater relevance and ‘engaged scholarship’ (van de Ven, 2007).

  • Third, our rationale for the sub-theme is epistemological and, to some extent, self-critical (Martela, 2015; Wicks & Freeman, 1998). The ideal of detached, objective knowledge has played a powerful role in motivating and directing social scientific inquiry. While we do not believe this ideal should be abandoned, it is notable that values are often ‘smuggled in’ to organization theories (Ezzamel & Willmott, 2014) that profess to be more objective than they really are. More explicit attention to values can help mitigate this problem.

  • Fourth, and closely related, our rationale for the sub-theme is explicitly humanistic. Though social scientific theories are not all equally reductionist or dehumanizing, they do tend to objectify human beings and ‘explain’ their behaviors as a function of exogenous forces (Selznick, 2008; Zald, 1993). Theories that take values seriously serve as a useful antidote to this pervasive social scientific tendency, even while it sometimes seems that organization theorists avoid an avenue of study that is perceived to be normative (Heugens & Scherer, 2010).

  • Finally, our rationale for organizing this conversation is historical. Though the idea of a value-centric organization theory may seem improbable to many modern theorists, such a perspective did once exist and has in fact played a significant role in the development of our field (Selznick, 1949, 1992, 2000, 2008). Selznick’s ‘relentlessly and unapologetically value-centered’ perspective (Krygier, 2012: 21) is a critical part of our shared past which provides a guide for this type of scholarship, along with a wealth of practical insights.

We believe this value-centric conversation fits exceptionally well with the EGOS Colloquium 2018 Tallinn. Values and meaning are integrally connected with the ability of organizations to surprise (both with good, uplifting behavior and with bad, shocking behavior) in ways that define organizational life. Many scholars (Berg, 2015; Chandler, 2014; Gehman et al., 2013) and practitioners (Kraemer, 2015; Mackey & Sisodia, 2014) have stressed that values are pivotal in making organizations meaningful, both to key stakeholders (Chandler, 2015) and to the societies in which they are embedded (Friedland, 2013; Kraatz & Flores, 2015; Selznick, 1957). As such, we see the potential for substantial interest in a broad discussion among multiple research streams.
In this spirit, we invite papers that explore the extent to which a full appreciation of values enhances our understanding of organizational ethics, identity, learning, reputation, structure, and strategy and, in the broader sense, our understanding of organizations and institutions as moral communities. Our goal is to foster an open discussion that encompasses conceptual, empirical, and methodological contributions. As such, we welcome submissions from researchers across the range of organization theories.



  • Bansal, P. (2003): “From Issues to Actions: The Importance of Individual Concerns and Organizational Values in Responding to Natural Environmental Issues.” Organization Science, 14 (5), 510–527.
  • Berg, J.L. (2015): “The Role of Personal Purpose and Personal Goals in Symbiotic Visions.” Frontiers in Psychology, 6;
  • Brewer, M.B., & Roccas, S. (2001): Individual Values, Social Identity, and Optimal Distinctiveness. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
  • Chandler, D. (2014): “Morals, Markets, and Values-Based Businesses.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (3), 396–406.
  • Chandler, D. (2015): “Why Institutions Matter: Stakeholder Attention to Organizational Ethics Commitments.” In: M.S. Kraatz (ed.): Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 44. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 199–233.
  • Ezzamel, M., & Willmott, H. (2014): “Registering ‘the Ethical’ in Organization Theory Formation: Towards the Disclosure of an ‘Invisible Force’.” Organization Studies, 35 (7), 1013–1039.
  • Friedland, R. (2013): “The Gods of Institutional Life: Weber’s Value Spheres and the Practice of Polytheism.” Critical Research on Religion, 1 (1), 15–24.
  • Gehman, J., Trevino, L.K., & Garud, R. (2013): “Values Work: A Process Study of the Emergence and Performance of Organizational Values Practices.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1), 84–112.
  • Gentile, M.C. (2010): Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right? London: Yale University Press.
  • Gibbs, J.C. (2013): Moral Development and Reality: Beyond the Theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Haidt, J. (2012): The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Vintage.
  • Hardy, S.A. (2006): “Identity, Reasoning, and Emotion: An Empirical Comparison of Three Sources of Moral Motivation.” Motivation and Emotion, 30 (3), 205–213.
  • Heugens, P.P.M.A.R., & Scherer, A.G. (2010): “When Organization Theory Met Business Ethics: Toward Further Symbioses.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 20 (4), 643–672.
  • Hitlin, S. (2003): “Values as the Core of Personal Identity: Drawing Links between Two Theories of Self.” Social Psychology Quarterly, 66 (2), 118–137.
  • Hitlin, S., & Vaisey, S. (2013): “The New Sociology of Morality.” Sociology, 39 (1), 51.
  • Kraatz, M.S., & Flores, R. (2015): “Reinfusing Values.” In: M.S. Kraatz (ed.): Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 44. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 353–381.
  • Kraemer, H.M. (2015): Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization through Values-Based Leadership. New York: Jossey-Bass.
  • Krygier, M. (2012): Philip Selznick: Ideals in the World. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Mackey, J., & Sisodia, R. (2014): Conscious Capitalism, with a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Martela, F. (2015): “Fallible Inquiry with Ethical Ends-in-View: A Pragmatist Philosophy of Science for Organizational Research.” Organization Studies, 36 (4), 537–563.
  • Sayer, A. (2011): Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life: Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Selznick, P. (1949): Tva and the Grass Roots: A Study of Politics and Organization. Berkely, CA: University of California Press.
  • Selznick, P. (1957): Leadership in Administration. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Selznick, P. (1992): The Moral Commonwealth: Social Theory and the Promise of Community. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Selznick, P. (2000): “On Sustaining Research Agendas: Their Moral and Scientific Basis: An Address to the Western Academy of Management.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 9 (3), 277.
  • Selznick, P. (2008): A Humanist Science: Values and Ideals in Social Inquiry. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Starratt, R.J. (2004): Ethical Leadership. New York: Jossey-Bass.
  • Stets, J.E., & Carter, M.J. (2012): “A Theory of the Self for the Sociology of Morality.” American Sociological Review, 77 (1), 120–140.
  • van de Ven, A.H. (2007): Engaged Scholarship: A Guide for Organizational and Social Research: A Guide for Organizational and Social Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wicks, A.C., & Freeman, R.E. (1998): “Organization Studies and the New Pragmatism: Positivism, Anti-Positivism, and the Search for Ethics.” Organization Science, 9 (2), 123–140.
  • Zald, M.N. (1993): “Organization Studies as a Scientific and Humanistic Enterprise: Toward a Reconceptualization of the Foundations of the Field.” Organization Science, 4 (4), 513–528.


David Chandler is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Colorado Denver, USA. His research focuses on the dynamic interface between the organization and its institutional environment. He is also interested in the relationship between institutions and values, and how firm actions reflect values that sustain meaningful institutions.
Ricardo G. Flores is an Assistant Professor at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Bussines, University of Victoria, Canada. His research interests include global strategy, cross-border phenomena, and institutional leadership development.
Pursey P.M.A.R. Heugens is Professor of Organization Theory, Development, and Change at the Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), The Netherlands. His research interests include comparative corporate governance, business ethics, and bureaucracy, institutional, and demographic theories of organization.