“Just Look the Other Way”: Job Seekers’ Reactions to the Irresponsibility of Market-Dominant Employers

Journal of Business Ethics 174 (2):403-422 (2020)
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Abstract

Past research on recruitment has shown that employer image predicts job seekers’ perceptions of organizational attractiveness. We contribute to this body of work by examining job seekers’ reactions to a market-dominant employer that has suffered from a case of corporate social irresponsibility (CSI). We show that job seekers’ reaction is buffered in the case of dominant employers’ wrongdoing. This effect is stronger for job seekers who are very interested in working in the dominant employers’ industry. Market dominance, however, reduces the negative impact of CSI only under certain circumstances. We find that market dominance provides a buffer against the negative effect of CSI only when (1) CSI is directly relevant to the domain of performance of the organization and (2) job seekers feel very certain about their attitudes toward the organization. In two experiments with participants actively looking for employment at the time of study, we tested a model of moderated mediation examining how market dominance and CSI influence perceived employer ethicality and perceived employer competence. These two variables, in turn, explain how job seekers form perceptions of organizational attractiveness. This is the first study to explore how job seekers react to potential employers that are dominant in a market but have suffered from a CSI incident. The study identifies the boundary conditions that explain why sometimes market-dominant employers can emerge relatively unscathed in the eyes of job seekers following CSI. The research opens important managerial implications concerning the recruitment efforts of organizations that have suffered from CSI.

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