Sub-theme 25: Social Evaluations in an Age of Disruption: Processes of Creation, Maintenance, and Destruction of Social Evaluations

Alexandre B. Bitektine
Concordia University, Canada
Patrick Haack
HEC Lausanne, Switzerland
Anastasiya Zavyalova
Rice University, USA

Call for Papers

Social evaluations encompass a broad spectrum of concepts reflecting perceptions, judgments and some behavioral intentions of individual and collective actors with respect to an individual, an organization, a market category, and/or other socially significant objects. They play a critical role in actors’ interactions at various levels of the social system and produce tangible effects on performance, access to resources, and ultimately, survival of organizations. Individual and collective actors are routinely subjected to different types of social evaluations by multiple audiences, such as customers, investors, employees, and the general public. The extant research has identified and explored a number of social evaluation constructs, including legitimacy (Suchman, 1995; Suddaby et al., 2017), reputation (George et al., 2016; Lange et al., 2011), status (Podolny, 2005; Washington & Zaiac, 2005), authenticity (Kovács et al., 2013; Lehman et al., 2019), trustworthiness (Schilke & Cook, 2015), celebrity (Rindova et al., 2006), stigma (Devers et al., 2009), and others.
Nevertheless, the questions of social construction of different types of social evaluations, their maintenance over time and space, as well as the processes of their change and destruction remain underexplored. The growing complexity of the social settings, where ongoing global challenges of climate change and labor practices, viral effects in social media, fake news, and “organized hypocrisy” have become a common practice, present an important challenge for social evaluations scholars. These developing factors, combined with sudden disruptions such as global pandemics, create a new social reality and produce social processes unseen just a few decades ago. With the growing polarization and disruption of societies across the globe, one can observe the polarization of social judgments in “echo chambers,” that is, communities of like-minded individuals whose exposure to alternative viewpoints is limited.
This trend contributes to the growing importance of negative social evaluations, such as stigma, illegitimacy, infamy, and social disapproval (Bundy & Pfarrer, 2015; Zavyalova et al., 2017; Zuckerman, 1999). The development of these negative evaluations and their relationship to their positive counterparts during smoldering and sudden disruptions remains undertheorized and empirically underexplored. The goal of this sub-theme is to facilitate a conversation not only about the construction of social evaluations, but also about the processes of maintenance of positive and negative evaluations within a collectivity of actors and the processes of destruction and change of social evaluations of a given entity.
Furthermore, the current coronavirus pandemic has shed light on the fragility of globalization. Extant ways of economic coordination and organizing are challenged by unprecedented disruptions. And we have already seen a growing interest across organization and management studies in analyzing the role of business firms in the solution of “grand challenges,” global problems of ecological or social nature, such as the transition to a carbon-free economy, fight against global inequality, and tackling precarious working conditions that are emerging as a result of digitalization and robotization. These grand challenges are important for research on social evaluations. For instance, even though business firms are essential in developing solutions to grand challenges, their engagement has been met with skepticism from some audiences. Indeed, societal trust in business firms and the free market economy is declining, and the role of business firms is increasingly politicized and contested.
We encourage novel research to theorize and examine both positive and negative social evaluations, address diverging views on the role of business firms in the context of grand challenges and to explore how large-scale disruptions such as the coronavirus pandemic affect these evaluations. The exogenous shock of this crisis offers manifold opportunities to study the creation, maintenance, and destruction of social evaluations in the context of a natural experiment, i.e. a naturally occurring contrast that generates a treatment and a control condition to allow for plausible causal inferences. 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 advance our understanding of the process of construction, maintenance, and destruction of social evaluations.
In line with these considerations, we invite (but do not restrict) submissions addressing the following questions:

  • Through what processes are different types of social evaluations created, maintained, and destroyed? What are the effects of specific disruptive events on social evaluations (e.g., sex scandals, financial fraud, corruption, global crises)?

  • How do social evaluations change in the age of disruption? How do ongoing global challenges versus sudden global crises affect social evaluations at the micro, meso, and macro levels?

  • Under what circumstances do different types of social evaluations converge? How does change in one social evaluation affect other types of social evaluations?

  • What is the role of individuals, social networks, mainstream media, social media, authorities, and other actors in this process? How do recent developments in communications and information sharing, such as social media, affect the dynamics of social evaluations?

  • What are the micro and macro-level mechanisms that ensure persistence of social evaluations?

  • It has been observed that those who do not endorse an entity privately may nonetheless believe that others perceive it as appropriate and therefore silence their unfavorable judgments (Bitektine & Haack, 2015). Under which conditions do actors disclose their private judgments and engage in institutional change efforts (Tost, 2011)?

  • What does it take to reverse a negative evaluation? For example, how do various social actors repair trust or reputation, rise from a low status category, or overcome stigma?

  • Since increased use of social media as an information source has contributed to the development of “informational echo chambers” (i.e., communities of like-minded actors whose exposure to alternative viewpoints is limited), what are the organizational consequences of these polarization processes?

  • Since “fake news” have primarily been discussed at the level of society and politics, we have limited knowledge of these dynamics in the context of organizations and organizing. How do actors perceive, make sense of, and react to post-truth politics in organizational contexts?

  • What prompts evaluators to make (un)favorable evaluations of an organization and under what conditions (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, A., & Haack, P. (2015): “The macro and the micro of legitimacy: Towards a multi-level theory of the legitimacy process.” Academy of Management Review, 40 (1), 49–75.
  • Bundy, J., & Pfarrer, M.D. (2015): “A burden of responsibility: The role of social approval at the onset of a crisis.” Academy of Management Review, 40 (3), 345–369.
  • Devers, C.E., Dewett, T., Mishina, Y., & Belsito, C.A. (2009): “A general theory of organizational stigma.” Organization Science, 20 (1), 154–171.
  • George, G., Dahlander, L., Graffin, S.D., & Sim, S. (2016): “Reputation and status: Expanding the role of social evaluations in management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (1), 1–13.
  • Kovács, B., Carroll, G.R., &Lehman, D.W. (2013): “Authenticity and consumer value ratings: Empirical tests from the restaurant domain.” Organization Science, 25 (2), 458–478.
  • Lange, D., Lee, P. M., & Dai, Y. (2011): “Organizational reputation: A review.” Journal of Management, 37 (1), 153–184.
  • Lehman, D.W., O’Connor, K., Kovács, B., & Newman, G.E. (2019): “Authenticity.” Academy of Management Annals, 13 (1), 1–42.
  • Podolny, J.M. (2005): Status Signals: A Sociological Study of Market Competition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Rindova, V.P., Pollock, T.G., & Hayward, M.L.A. (2006): “Celebrity firms: The social construction of market popularity.” Academy of Management Review, 31 (1), 50–71.
  • Schilke, O., & Cook, K.S. (2015): “Sources of alliance partner trustworthiness: Integrating calculative and relational perspectives.” Strategic Management Journal, 36 (2), 276–297.
  • Suchman, M.C. (1995): “Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches.” Academy of Management Review, 20 (3), 571–610.
  • Suddaby, R., Bitektine, A., & Haack, P. (2017): “Legitimacy.” Academy of Management Annals, 11 (1), 451–478.
  • Tost, L. P. (2011): “An integrative model of legitimacy judgments.” Academy of Management Review, 36 (4), 686–710.
  • Washington, M., & Zajac, E. (2005): “Status evolution and competition: Theory and evidence.” Academy of Management Journal, 48 (2), 281–296.
  • Zavyalova, A., Pfarrer, M.D., Reger, R.K., & Hubbard, T.D. (2016): “Reputation as a benefit and a burden? How stakeholder’s organizational identification affects the role of reputation following a negative event.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (1), 253–276.
  • Zavyalova, A., Pfarrer, M.D., & Reger, R.K. (2017): “Celebrity and infamy? The consequences of media narratives about organizational identity.” Academy of Management Review, 42 (3), 461–480.
  • Zuckerman, E.W. (1999): “The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount.” American Journal of Sociology, 104 (5), 1398–1438.
Alexandre B. Bitektine is an Associate Professor of Management at JMSB – Concordia University, Canada. His research interests include social judgments (legitimacy, status, reputation, trust, and others), institutional theory, entrepreneurship, sustainable development, as well as application of experimental methods in organizational research. In his research, he seeks to integrate multi-level approach and findings from microsociology and social psychology into institutional theory and organization studies. Alex currently serves as a member of editorial review boards of the ‘Academy of Management Learning’, the ‘Journal of Management Studies’ and ‘Organization Studies’ and is an active reviewer for several other leading management journals.
Patrick Haack is a Professor of Strategy at HEC Lausanne, Switzerland. His primary research interests include social judgment formation, practice adoption, and recent developments in research methodology, especially the application of experiments and formal modeling approaches to the study of institutionalization and legitimation. Patrick’s research has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Anastasiya Zavyalova is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University in Houston (Texas), USA. Her research focuses on socially responsible and irresponsible organizational actions that build, damage, and restore social approval assets, such as reputation and celebrity. Anastasiya’s work has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Strategic Management Journal’, and ‘Socio-Economic Review’.