Employee-CSR Tensions: Drivers of Employee (Dis)Engagement with Contested CSR Initiatives

Tobias Hahn, Garima Sharma, Ante Glavas

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Firms face mounting pressure to implement organization-wide CSR initiatives in order to address social issues such as climate change, poverty alleviation, and inequality. Such efforts hinge on the engagement of employees throughout the organization. Yet, involving more employees in CSR, as well as the magnitude of organizational change required to address pressing social issues, are likely to trigger employee-CSR (E-CSR) tensions, i.e., tensions between employees' personal preferences for organizational CSR initiatives and their perceptions of the actual organizational CSR initiatives. While prior research on micro-CSR has identified a range of employee engagement with CSR, it does not explain employees' CSR (dis)engagement when they experience E-CSR tensions. We draw on the literature on individuals' responses to paradoxical tensions to unpack how and why employees who experience E-CSR tensions (dis)engage differently with CSR initiatives. We develop a conceptual framework around the interplay of three drivers (type of tension, cognition, and organizational situatedness) to explain the employee response to E-CSR tensions in terms of different types of (dis)engagement with CSR initiatives. We contribute to the micro-CSR literature by explaining how and why employees (dis)engage differently with CSR initiatives with which they disagree, and to the microfoundations of paradox by challenging the dominant association between both/and thinking and generative outcomes vs either/or thinking and detrimental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Early online dateMar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Mar 2023


  • corporate social responsibility
  • CSR engagement
  • employees
  • Micro-CSR
  • paradoxical tensions


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