Organizational Images as Negotiated Accounts: A Dynamic Conception of Impression Management

Organizational Images as Negotiated Accounts: A Dynamic Conception of Impression Management

By Roderick M. Kramer, Linda Ginzel
1991Working Paper No. 1173

Emergence of the symbolic management perspective in the organizational studies literature has turned attention to the use of impression management strategies by leaders. When events occur that have potential to either detract from or contribute to the preferred image of the organization, members of the organizational audience routinely turn to top management for explanations of such events. The symbolic management perspective emphasizes that leaders are responsible for interpreting organizational predicaments for external and internal audiences. Theory and research have begun to consider the impression management strategies used by top management, but little attention has been paid to how such actions unfold. This essay considers how an organization's image is negotiated between top management and members of the organizational audience. We propose that impression management during predicaments is best portrayed as a process of reciprocal influence between top management and the organization's audience. To understand these dynamics, this essay considers the role of conflicting interpretations held by these parties and identifies psychological and organizational factors that lead top management to generate accounts that often conflict with the interpretations held by the organizational audience.