The justification of organizational performance in annual report narratives

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Izabella Frinhani Tessarolo
Marcelo Sanches Pagliaruss
Antonio Thadeu Mattos da Luz


In this paper, the nature of organizational discourse is theoretically underpinned by the concept of self-serving attributions, a type of causal reasoning that allows the writer to take credit for good news and avoid blame for bad news. We incorporated signaling theory to the extant theoretical framework for self-serving attributions in order to develop hypotheses for the expected levels of attributional bias in the justification of organizational performance. A sample of 49 companies was selected, both from a bad year and a good year regarding the capital market context. Each company's Letter to Shareholders was content analyzed in order to test our propositions concerning the presence and intensity of self-serving attributions in that section of annual reports. The results partially corroborate the proposed theoretical hypotheses, but the sample size is an issue in terms of robustness. Nevertheless, the results indicate that companies attempt to create a positive corporate image to external stakeholders even when negative performance occurs in a clearly favorable external context. Moreover, we observed that companies with positive performance in a good external context blame negative effects on the environment in a proportion equivalent to that observed for companies with positive performance in a bad year.


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How to Cite
Tessarolo, I. F., Pagliaruss, M. S., & Luz, A. T. M. da. (2010). The justification of organizational performance in annual report narratives. Brazilian Administration Review, 7(2), 198-212.