Rhetorical Strategies and Resilience in Organizational Fields

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
234 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Leonard Seabrooke, Frederiksberg, Denmark; Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duncan Wigan, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Richard Murphy, City University of London, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Global Professional Service Firms (GPSFs) are commonly identified as operating in organizational fields that encourage institutional isomorphism. The Big Four are often held as exemplars of such isomorphism, having developed a mature organizational field. This paper examines the resilience of institutional isomorphism when the regulation of GPSFs’ professional jurisdictions is significantly challenged by political interventions. We investigate how the Big Four responded to supranational political pressures to adopt Country-by-Country Reporting into accounting practices in Europe, finding that they quickly followed different rhetorical strategies to cope with change. These rhetorical strategies including active reframing and deferral, as well as passive opposition and deflection. We tie these strategies to the respective firms’ endowments, including their industry-sectoral alignment, client preferences, and expert resources. Using a mix of content and network analysis, participant observation, and elite interviews, we trace how the Big Four unbundled in the face of political pressure, and why tracing political interventions is important for understanding the resilience of organizational fields.