Impression Management And Reputation Defense In 19Th Century Credit Rating
I focus empirically on credit rating decisions by local offices within a prominent 19th Century credit rating agency, as the organization, as a whole, responded to external threats. Findings from this study show that the heightened accountability of reported performance feedback is an important factor shaping the nature of lower-level organizational response to evident failures in decision-making processes. Public failure, which engenders threat to the organization, heightens the need to justify decision-making processes at the local level. I provide evidence to suggest that, at times when this need was greatest, credit -rating agents in local offices responded avoiding changes to previous ratings decisions, and when changes were made, these choices reflected greater conformity (greater reliance on decision cr iteria and standards consistent with emerging commercial norms and conventions). Also, local offices made changes to the way they produced and distributed source material, changes that made these processes appear more conventional and information more acc essible. Together, these legitimacy-driven responses led to poorer quality decisions and less functional information. The very different nature of credit reporting during this period points to systematic differences in organizational response to failure under different historical conditions. Moreover, it raises questions about the larger structure of decision -making in mediated markets, where critics and gatekeepers, like many other economic actors, are sensitive to public scrutiny and labor to shape their reputations.
Soule, Sarah Anne; Tolbert, Pamela S; Ruef, Martin
Ph.D. of Sociology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis