Lepisto, Douglas A. “Reason for Being: Exploring the Formation and Members' Acceptance of Organizational Purpose in an Athletic Footwear and Apparel Company”, PhD, Boston College, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104878.
Through two inductive qualitative studies, this dissertation explores the surprising emergence, and members’ subsequent responses, to value-laden claims regarding “why we exist” – what members themselves and scholarship refers to as organizational purpose. Study One finds that, although unintended, the implementation of specific practices within this organization generated powerful emotional energy amongst members. Leaders subsequently grafted this energy into organizational symbols and engaged in meaning-making to articulate what this energy meant for why the organization existed. This study advances theories of organizational identity formation and Selznick’s institutionalism by highlighting an alternative unit of analysis focused on features of shared experiences rather than discourse, documenting an alternative generative mechanism focused on emotional energy, and recasting leaders not as ideological visionaries engaged in sensegiving, but by setting in place conditions to build, harvest, and articulate emotional energy. Study Two examines members subsequent responses to these value-laden claims, finding that members either broadly rejected claims finding them akin to a desired projected image or broadly accepted claims finding them to be real and implicating of the organization itself. These responses varied depending on various ways members construed the credibility of the organization, as well as the plausibility of the organization’s claims. This study advances theories of how members accept or reject organizational meanings by highlighting the ways in which members anthropomorphize organizations – treating them as if they were human beings – and evaluating claims in light of what they see as organizational traits, motives, and intentions. I addition, this study advances theory by identifying the critical importance of perceiving how products and services – “what we do” – is linked to claims regarding “why we exist.”