A burden of responsibility: The role of social approval at the onset of a crisis

Jonathan Bundy, Michael D. Pfarrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations


We extend research on social evaluations and crisis management by explicating the sociocognitive mechanisms that influence how an organization and its external evaluators perceive and respond to the onset of a crisis. Specifically, we highlight the role of social approval-evaluators' general affinity toward an organization-not only as a critical outcome of crisis management but also as an important antecedent.We first identify the distinct aspects of social approval and explain why it is an important perception in a crisis context. We then detail how managers attempt to limit the probability and magnitude of social approval losswhen responding to a crisis, and how an organization's existing endowment of social approval affects this decision. We theorize that social approval will serve as either a buffer or a burden in influencing evaluators' crisis sensemaking and attributions. As a result, we argue, organizations endowed with higher and lower levels of social approvalmay be motivated to take less responsibility at the onset of a crisis than has been previously theorized. We conclude with a discussion of the broader managerial and social implications of our theory and how it expands our understanding of the crisis management process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-369
Number of pages25
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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