The Effect of Relationship Quality on Individual Perceptions of Social Responsibility in the U.S.

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Social responsibility (SR) has been of continuing interest in the U.S. and around the world. Organizations make a wide variety of SR decisions that represent differing viewpoints. While a number of definitions of SR exist, many of these definitions indicate that SR decisions may be viewed as existing of various facets, such as legal/regulatory, financial/economic, ethical, environmental, and voluntary. While drivers of SR have been proposed, there has been limited research at a micro-level on how individuals perceive SR activities by the organizations where they work. Based on a prior qualitative study (Thornton and Byrd, 2013) that found SR decisions are related to several traits and influenced by relationships, a model was proposed and tested in this research. The traits found relevant in the qualitative research were conscientiousness, especially in the sense of being responsible, and self-efficacy. Relationship quality was assessed based on positive and negative emotional attractors as proposed in intentional change theory. Perceptions of individuals in management and non-management showed that relationship quality mediated the effect of conscientiousness and general self-efficacy on the SR. Because there are multiple facets, the author made use of Carroll’s (1991) pyramid of SR to identify activities that business owners and managers consider relevant. The findings indicate that conscientiousness is related to specific SR activities in the areas of legal/regulatory, ethical and discretionary dimensions while general self-efficacy is related to financial/economic and legal/regulatory dimensions. The presence of relationship quality enhanced the effects of both conscientiousness and general self-efficacy on the various SR dimensions. This suggests that individuals perceived SR activities along different traits and that enhancing these traits might improve perceptions of SR decisions.