Interview with Best Symposium Award Winner

Sara Marquez-Gallardo (De Montfort) interviewing M.K. Chin (Indiana U) and Abhinav Gupta (U of Washington), Winners of the OMT Best Symposium Award, for “Politics, Political Ideology and Organizations”


Sara Marquez-Gallardo (SMG): First, congratulations on winning the best symposium proposal award. Can you briefly summarize what the symposium meant for you?


M.K. Chin (MKC), Abhinav Gupta (AG): Thank you! It is heartening to be acknowledged for our community-building efforts around the concept of political ideology. We have been engaged in developing this concept and examining its implications for organizations for almost a decade. So, it is great to see it recognized by the broader community of scholars. We have been organizing a symposium on political ideology and organizations every year since 2015, and it is great to see the topic gaining more attention. New papers are coming out in top journals every year that examine its implication in divergent contexts. Perhaps this is reflective of the growing importance of this topic in the real world.


SMG: Now, let's talk about the development of the symposium. How did you come up with the idea? How did each of you contributed to the development of the project?


MKC, AG: When Abhinav organized the very first symposium on political ideology and organizations in 2015, this topic was much less recognized among management scholars. We believed that the topic of political ideology had a strong potential to contribute to our field by broadening our understanding of organizational phenomena and advancing various theoretical perspectives. Therefore, we thought that a symposium could provide a platform for scholarly conversations about the implications of political ideology for organizations.


This is the fourth time we have worked together as co-organizers, so this specific iteration of the symposium this year did not require any breakthrough. We worked jointly to identify a group of participants for this symposium, recruited Professor Mark Mizruchi as the discussant, compiled a proposal, and then moderated the session. We were able to get some fantastic participants this year, and it is [owing] in great part to their efforts and that of our esteemed discussant that the symposium was recognized by the OMT division. We are big believers in the idea that it takes a village to achieve success in any domain.


SMG: All the contributors to the symposium were based in the U.S., which is currently facing a specific political context. Where there any specific points of the debates you feel might be relevant in any context?


MKC, AG: This is a good question! We have been pondering the generalizability of the concept of political ideology across national contexts and have done some work in this area. While the political systems certainly differ across countries, and even though most work on political ideology and organizations has been in the U.S. context (with some notable exceptions), we believe it also has substantial implications for research in other national contexts, because, at its core, it is about understanding how deeply held values, beliefs, and convictions that individuals and collectives share affect their actions and outcomes in subtle yet profound ways. From this perspective, political ideology goes beyond individuals' support for a specific party or politicians in a given context.


That said, while the steadily growing partisanship and polarization over the last few decades have offered ease of measurement of political ideology in the U. S. context, the 2016 presidential election has shaken things up quite a bit. We strongly believe that the issue of how these recent elections and events have realigned the U.S. political system and have caused the reshuffling of political allegiances across the two parties is a highly fertile topic for future research. The ongoing COVID crisis and the upcoming election poses great uncertainty for this country and the world at large. So, it is only reasonable to wonder how our theories will retain their predictive validity. That's another topic for future research! Overall, we are encouraged by the growing momentum within the field of management to study new and exciting topics at the intersection of business and contemporary politics.


SMG: In relation to the takeaways of the symposium. How are they surprising, theoretically? And, how could these contribute to help practitioners in the current context?


MKC, AG: That's another excellent question! Of course, each paper in the symposium aims to advance organizational theories on its own. Still, as a set, these papers further our understanding of how organizations affect and are impacted by the sociopolitical dynamics in society. For instance, Shubha and Ina's fantastic study looks at how political processes among a field's founders play a role in the formation of a field's identity. These authors shifted the conversation regarding field formation and category emergence from socio-cognitive dynamics to sociopolitical ones. Another study, by Mae and Samantha, looked at how some companies may benefit from experiencing social activism. This finding goes against the grain of prevailing wisdom on the topic. Matt, MK, and Zeki's project can offer new theoretical and practical implications by suggesting that the framing of messages and the political ideology of message recipients could affect the impact of corporate sociopolitical activism on the stock market. Another study by Abhinav, Anna, and Chad demonstrates how the political ideology of CEOs influences the adoption of CSR executive positions, which broadens our understanding of the diffusion processes. Andrew, Katherine, and Bruce's project can also expand our current views on the top management team by investigating how top executives' political ideology affect their team composition. [Note: See end of interview, for full symposium author and paper references]


SMG: You work with contested topics (e.g., how to define 'ideology'?). How can this pose a challenge, and do you have any advice for early career researchers on how to work (painlessly) with controversial/difficult-to-operationalize core concepts?


MKC, AG: It certainly poses a significant challenge for junior authors to try to work with controversial concepts. We have had numerous journal rejections between the two of us, where the reviewers reacted negatively to the manuscripts based on their preconceived notions and political worldviews. It is also not uncommon to hear audiences complain about the oversimplification of complex sociopolitical concepts, even though that criticism can be levied against pretty much every study in social sciences. So, unfortunately, we have not managed to uncover painless ways of working with contested topics.


However, we can say that we have really enjoyed developing ideas on political ideology and have been very excited about these projects. Studying topics that one finds exciting helps with overcoming the inevitable challenges that are part and parcel of the rigorous peer-review process at top-tier journals. Persistence is partly the key here. To the extent possible, junior scholars should think about how to head off reviewer concerns by being forthcoming about the limitations of their research and try to educate reviewers about how their work draws from, and at the same contributes to, established methodological paradigms in the field. Just as the availability of political contributions data from the Federal Election Commission in the U.S. has enabled so much of our work, it is logical to expect that the opportunities to operationalize new and complex social concepts will only increase in the future. Any new constructs and measurement approaches pose an additional layer of challenge to authors, who have to offer a new theory of organizational behaviors and outcomes and come up with a measurement theory that justifies a given operationalization. If executed deftly, such efforts can also have a high pay-off and open up entirely new areas of inquiry.



Symposium Papers:


Profiting from Protest: A Contingency Model of the Effects of Anti-Corporate Activism

Mary-Hunter McDonnell; The Wharton School, U. of Pennsylvania

Samantha Darnell; The Wharton School, U. of Pennsylvania


Investor Reactions to Corporate Sociopolitical Activism Following Discourse Triggering Events

Matt C. Hersel; College of Business, Clemson U.

  1. K. Chin; Indiana U. Bloomington

Zeki Simsek; Clemson U.


A Grounded Model of Politics in Field-Identity Formation

Ina Toegel; International Institute for Management Development

Shubha Patvardhan; U. of Delaware


Out of Character: CEO Political Ideology and Diffusion of CSR Executive Position

Abhinav Gupta; U. of Washington, Seattle

Anna Fung; American U., Kogod School of Business

Chad Benjamin Murphy; Oregon State U.


Effects of CEO Political Ideology: Building a Politically Homogenous TMT

Andrew Franklin Johnson; Texas A&M U., Corpus Christi

Katherine Roberto; Texas A&M U., Corpus Christi

Bruce C. Rudy; U. of Texas At San Antonio