Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


For better or for worse, one stakeholder’s utility derives in part from their perceptions of how other stakeholders are being treated by the business. Yet, to date, the stakeholder literature has not explained well what stakeholders are actually looking for in a business’s treatment of other stakeholders. We allow for and help explain an emerging view in the literature whereby stakeholders might be looking out for each other’s interests, but we round out that view by also allowing for and explaining a different kind of possibility, whereby stakeholders disapprove of the favorable treatment of others or approve of their unfavorable treatment. Our model details how the other stakeholder serves three different roles with respect to the focal stakeholder’s utility: (a) as a symbolic representation of the values the business prioritizes—especially compared to the focal stakeholder’s own worldview, (b) as a referent for interpersonal equity comparisons, and (c) as either a perceived competitor for or facilitator of resources. We describe these three roles and then show how they interrelate in a process model. In doing so, we provide a more detailed and complete understanding of stakeholder utility than currently exists in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-30
Number of pages22
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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