Reconsidering the ‘symmetry’ between institutionalization and professionalization: The case of corporate social responsibility managers

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Abstract

The assumption of a mutually supportive, ‘symmetric’ relationship between institutionalization and professionalization is central to the institutionalist perspective on professional work. Our inductive qualitative study of corporate social responsibility (CSR) managers in multinational corporations (MNCs) prompts to rethink the validity of this assumption. We show that as the institutionalization of CSR advances and consolidates, CSR managers are pushed to the organizational periphery. This indicates that the relationship between professionalization and institutionalization can be ‘asymmetric’ under certain conditions. To advance the study of this asymmetry, we develop a conceptual framework and a set of corresponding propositions that explain why some groups are able to advance their professionalization projects, while others cannot. Our study makes three main contributions to the literature: First, we explicate under which conditions the relationship between institutionalization and professionalization is more likely asymmetric than symmetric. Second, our explanation of the shifting organizational positions of different professional groups allows for further delineating occupational from organizational professionals. Third, we contribute to the CSR literature by examining the dynamic yet ambiguous role of CSR managers as driving forces behind the implementation of CSR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-646
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Volume54
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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