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Stories about Values and Valuable Stories: A Field Experiment of the Power of Narratives to Shape Newcomers’ Actions
Abstract and Figures
This study draws on social identity theories of behavioral contagion and research concerning narratives in organizations to present and test a framework for understanding how narratives embed values in organizational newcomers' actions. Employing a field experiment using 632 newly-hired employees in a large IT firm that prioritizes self-transcendent values, this study explores how narratives varying in terms of the organizational level of main characters and the values-upholding or values-violating behaviors of those characters influence newcomers' tendencies to engage in behaviors that uphold or deviate from the values. Results indicate that stories about low-level organizational characters engaging in values-upholding behaviors are more positively associated with self-transcendent, helping behaviors and negatively associated with deviant behaviors, than are similar stories about high-level members of the organization. Stories in which high-level members of the organization violate values are negatively related to newcomers' engagement in both helping and deviance more strongly than are values-violating stories about lower-level members. Content analyses of the stories suggest that they convey values in different and potentially important ways. Implications, future directions, and limitations are discussed.
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