Institutional Work and (Ir)Responsible Management

Lauren McCarthy, Sebastien Mena

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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This chapter examines the institutional work individuals perform towards responsible management practices, which we term ‘responsibilization work’. Reviewing existing research, we show how responsibilization work includes changing norms, creating new standards and creating new markets for
responsible management. We demonstrate how different actors – not just managers or firms – are involved in responsibilization work, and how we need to examine its consequences, both intended and unintended. Notably, we stress
that individuals may also work to maintain the status quo, i.e. to protect institutions and their practices considered irresponsible, unsustainable and unethical. We suggest that future research on institutional work and responsible management should: (1) address substantive social change (not just symbolic adoption); (2) not only focus on prominent institutional workers such as managers, but take a more encompassing interactionist perspective, and (3) take an explicit normative stance on whether institutional work is beneficial or detrimental, by surfacing power relations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook of Responsible Management
EditorsOliver Laasch, Dima Jamali, R. Edward Freeman, Roy Suddaby
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Print)9781788971959
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • institutional work
  • corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Sustainability
  • institutional change

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