Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 339–358 | Cite as

Scrooge Posing as Mother Teresa: How Hypocritical Social Responsibility Strategies Hurt Employees and Firms

  • Sabrina ScheidlerEmail author
  • Laura Marie Edinger-Schons
  • Jelena Spanjol
  • Jan Wieseke
Original Paper


Extant research provides compelling conceptual and empirical arguments that company-external (e.g., philanthropic) as well as company-internal (i.e., employee-directed) CSR efforts positively affect employees, but does so largely in studies assessing effects from the two CSR types independently of each other. In contrast, this paper investigates external–internal CSR jointly, examining the effects of (in)consistent external–internal CSR strategies on employee attitudes, intentions, and behaviors. The research takes a social and moral identification theory view and advances the core hypothesis that inconsistent CSR strategies, defined as favoring external over internal stakeholders, trigger employees’ perceptions of corporate hypocrisy which, in turn, lead to emotional exhaustion and turnover. In Study 1, a cross-industry employee survey (n = 3410) indicates that inconsistent CSR strategies with larger external than internal efforts increase employees’ turnover intentions via perceived corporate hypocrisy and emotional exhaustion. In Study 2, a multi-source secondary dataset (n = 1902) demonstrates that inconsistent CSR strategies increase firms’ actual employee turnover. Combined, the two studies demonstrate the importance of taking into account the interests of both external and internal stakeholders of the firm when researching and managing CSR.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) Corporate hypocrisy Inconsistent CSR strategies Employee emotional exhaustion. Employee turnover Social and moral identification theory 



The authors thank the action editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions for improvement.


This study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Grant Number SCHO-1605/2-1).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10551_2018_3788_MOESM1_ESM.docx (45 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 45 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sales & Marketing DepartmentUniversity of BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Innovation ManagementMunich School of Management80799 MunichGermany

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