Journal of Business Ethics (2020) 166:311–329
Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR
andEmployee Work Addiction
StevenA.Brieger1,2· StefanAnderer3,4· AndreasFröhlich3· AnneBäro3· TimoMeynhardt2,3
Received: 25 May 2018 / Accepted: 28 February 2019 / Published online: 9 March 2019
© The Author(s) 2019
Recent research highlights the positive eﬀects of organizational CSR engagement on employee outcomes, such as job and
life satisfaction, performance, and trust. We argue that the current debate fails to recognize the potential risks associated
with CSR. In this study, we focus on the risk of work addiction. We hypothesize that CSR has per se a positive eﬀect on
employees and can be classiﬁed as a resource. However, we also suggest the existence of an array of unintended negative
eﬀects of CSR. Since CSR positively inﬂuences an employee’s organizational identiﬁcation, as well as his or her perception
of engaging in meaningful work, which in turn motivates them to work harder while neglecting other spheres of their lives
such as private relationships or health, CSR indirectly increases work addiction. Accordingly, organizational identiﬁcation
and work meaningfulness both act as buﬀering variables in the relationship, thus suppressing the negative eﬀect of CSR on
work addiction, which weakens the positive role of CSR in the workplace. Drawing on a sample of 565 Swiss employees
taken from the 2017 Swiss Public Value Atlas dataset, our results provide support for our rationale. Our results also provide
evidence that the positive indirect eﬀects of organizational CSR engagement on work addiction, via organizational identi-
ﬁcation and work meaningfulness, become even stronger when employees care for the welfare of the wider public (i.e., the
community, nation, or world). Implications for research and practice are discussed.
Keywords Corporate social responsibility (CSR)· Public value· Work addiction· Organizational identiﬁcation· Social
identity theory· Social exchange theory
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)—a concept whereby
organizations “integrate social and environmental concerns
in their business operations and in their interaction with their
stakeholders on a voluntary basis” (European Commission
2001)—is receiving increased attention in practice. A grow-
ing number of organizations integrate social and environ-
mental concerns into their operations, thereby aiming to con-
tribute to the welfare of various stakeholders (including the
environment) that go beyond narrow economic self-interest
and legal requirements (Brieger etal. 2018; Dawkins etal.
2016; Kaplan and Kinderman 2017; McWilliams and Siegel
2001). Today, Fortune Global 500 ﬁrms devote over $15bil-
lion per year to CSR activities. In 2017, over 90% of the 250
largest companies in the world produced a CSR report to
inform diﬀerent stakeholders about their activities. That is
up from 35% in 1999 (Blasco and King 2017).
The business ethics literature on CSR outcomes at the
micro level oﬀers a very positive picture of the eﬀects of
* Steven A. Brieger
1 University ofSussex Business School, University ofSussex,
2 Center forLeadership andValues inSociety, University
ofSt.Gallen, St.Gallen, Switzerland
3 Dr. Arend Oetker Chair ofBusiness Psychology
andLeadership, HHL Leipzig Graduate School
ofManagement, Leipzig, Germany
4 Center forAdvanced Studies inManagement, HHL Leipzig
Graduate School ofManagement, Leipzig, Germany
312 S.A.Brieger et al.
CSR on employees, who form one of the most important
stakeholder groups associated with an organization (Glavas
and Godwin 2013; Glavas and Kelley 2014; Meynhardt etal.
2018). Various studies present evidence that employees who
perceive themselves as working for a socially responsible
organization show higher levels of organizational commit-
ment, loyalty, trust, and engagement, and are also more sat-
isﬁed with their jobs and lives in general (Brammer etal.
2007; De Roeck and Delobbe 2012; Glavas and Kelley
2014; Hansen etal. 2011; Kim etal. 2010; Meynhardt etal.
2018). While these ﬁndings create conﬁdence that CSR has
various positive eﬀects on employees, the current debate
neglects to recognize its potential negative outcomes at the
micro level—the dark side of CSR. Thus, what is missing is
a deeper understanding of how organizational CSR engage-
ment may negatively aﬀect employees and their attitudes,
intentions, and behaviors.
This study problematizes the one-sided view of CSR as
an exclusively positive factor, and aims to enlarge the debate
on the multi-faceted consequences of CSR at the micro level
by discussing the relationship between organizational CSR
engagement and employee work addiction. Discussions
about work addiction have worked their way into the broader
public discourse, and their presence there indicates prac-
tical relevance. Work addiction is “the tendency to work
excessively hard and being obsessed with work, which mani-
fests itself in working compulsively” (Schaufeli etal. 2009,
p.322). Work addiction is considered an addiction because
employees focus excessively on their work and fail to notice
or enjoy other spheres in life, such as private relationships,
spare-time activities and health (Andreassen etal. 2014). We
argue that CSR is generally a positive force for employees,
most signiﬁcantly because companies that are committed
to CSR protect their employees from working excessive
hours. But we also suggest that CSR can unintentionally
stimulate and cause employee work addiction. Speciﬁcally,
we hypothesize that two mediators—organizational identi-
ﬁcation and work meaningfulness—play vital roles in the
relationship between CSR and work addiction. We suggest
that employees who work for socially responsible organiza-
tions tend to identify more strongly with their employing
organization and perceive their work as more meaningful,
which in turn motivates them to think continually about their
work and to work excessively, unable to disengage from their
work activities (Caesens etal. 2014; van Beek etal. 2011).
We further hypothesize that the positive indirect eﬀects of
organizational CSR engagement on work addiction, via
organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness, are
even stronger if employees show awareness for public wel-
fare. Figure1 illustrates our research model.
To test our hypotheses, we draw on data for 565 employ-
ees polled by the Public Value Atlas Switzerland during
2017 (CLVS 2017), which has been conceptualized to create
transparency regarding organizational contributions to the
common good as perceived by the general public (Meyn-
hardt 2009; Meynhardt etal. 2017). Our paper is structured
as follows: First, we introduce an ethical analysis of CSR by
debating the positive outcomes and potential risks of CSR
for employees. Next, we present the concept of work addic-
tion and discuss why it is a challenge for CSR in organiza-
tions. We then present our model and develop the hypoth-
eses, and discuss the methodology in terms of sampling, data
collection, and measures. This is followed by a description
of our analysis and our main ﬁndings. Finally, the paper con-
cludes with a discussion of the results, managerial implica-
tions, theoretical contributions, limitations, and suggestions
for future research.
The Positive Outcomes andPotential Risks
Since CSR addresses a broad range of intra-organizational
human resource management issues (e.g., fairness, diversity
and empowerment, and health and safety), ethical analyses
of CSR focusing on employees have provided important
insights into how CSR influences employee outcomes
(Aguinis and Glavas 2012; Du etal. 2015; Kim etal. 2010).
Fig. 1 Research model relating CSR and employee work addiction
313Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
At present, the business ethics literature has drawn a very
positive picture of CSR in the work context. It shows that
employees who work for a socially responsible ﬁrm are
more committed to, and better identify with, their employing
organization. Additionally, the existing literature shows that
they report higher levels of motivation, eﬀort, organizational
citizenship behavior, performance, and creative involvement
at work (Brammer etal. 2015; Glavas and Piderit 2009;
Newman etal. 2015). CSR practices also positively change
the work environment because employees experience better
relationships with their colleagues and supervisors within
socially responsible organizations (Glavas and Piderit 2009;
Jayasinghe 2016). Employees also tend to be more satisﬁed
with their jobs and lives, and are less willing to quit their
jobs, when working for a socially responsible organization
(Glavas and Kelley 2014; Hansen etal. 2011; Meynhardt
Without a doubt, the evidence of the positive eﬀects of
CSR on employees is very convincing. However, the existing
business ethics literature neglects to investigate the potential
risks that may coexist with the positive eﬀects of CSR on
employee outcomes (Rupp and Mallory 2015). The missing
critical discussion of the downsides at the micro level can
be explained by the fact that CSR is generally perceived as
something good and desirable (Aguinis and Glavas 2012).
While we generally do not wish to contradict this view, we
would like to highlight three possible dangers that may arise
when employees work in socially responsible companies:
(1) self-sacriﬁce, (2) stagnation, and (3) self-righteousness.
These three risks are established and frequently discussed in
the ﬁeld of work and organizational psychology (e.g., Abele
etal. 2012; Barnett 2016; Lin-Hi and Müller 2013; Schabr-
acq etal. 2003; Swann etal. 2014).
Self-sacriﬁce refers to voluntarily and excessively meet-
ing the needs of other people at the expense of meeting one’s
own needs. It can occur when employees work very hard for
their socially responsible business. Research suggests that
work meaningfulness and identiﬁcation with an organiza-
tion are associated with work-life imbalances (Avanzi etal.
2012; Tokumitsu 2015). Because employees who work in
organizations with strong records of CSR show higher lev-
els of commitment, motivation and initiative at work, and
tend to be happier with their jobs (Aguinis and Glavas 2017;
Brammer etal. 2007; Farooq etal. 2014; Glavas and Kel-
ley 2014), they may also tend to neglect their private lives
and sacriﬁce their own well-being. Costas and Kärreman
(2013) argue that CSR initiatives can be perceived as a form
of intra-organizational management control that encourages
identiﬁcation with an attractive but idealized organizational
image, thereby tying employees’ career ambitions and sense
of professional responsibility to the organization. Previous
research also states that CSR increases employees’ motiva-
tion to work harder and be more productive (Aguilera etal.
2007; Flammer 2015). In line with that, self-sacriﬁce can
also result from heavy work obligations in an altruistic work
environment in which employees work together for a greater
common purpose (e.g., a healthy environment or societal
welfare). If an organizational culture prioritizes hard work in
order to achieve common goals, it may culminate in feelings
of substantial work burden, overstress, or burnout among
employees (Dempsey and Sanders 2010; Maes 2012).
Stagnation refers to the way in which organizational
CSR activities and strategies may undermine employees’
personal development, growth, and self-expression. Many
organizations use CSR as a greenwashing tool and window-
dressing intervention to gain legitimacy in order to maintain
their license to operate (Delmas and Burbano 2011; Preuss
2012). In this way, symbolic CSR helps organizations cre-
ate an idealized image of a socially responsible entity, even
when irresponsible business practices and power imbal-
ances are established (Perez-Batres etal. 2012). If CSR
activities are used to disguise adverse externalities—such
as low pay, highly unequal CEO–employee salary ratios,
gender disparity, social class inequality, or work-life imbal-
ances—those activities can have negative impacts on the
workforce. Notably, they may contribute to the stagnation
of employees’ personal development and growth. But even
if organizations take CSR very seriously and undertake sub-
stantive CSR actions—for example, by incorporating CSR
into the business model—stagnation can aﬀect employees
when substantive CSR initiatives are external and resources
are dedicated not to employees but rather to external stake-
holders such as customers, community groups, or regulatory
agencies (Farooq etal. 2017; Rupp and Mallory 2015). As
a result, employees could be confronted with both stagnant
incomes and stagnant skills acquisition, which could sig-
niﬁcantly reduce their future earning capacity, work-life
balance and job skills over the long run. Previous literature
provides evidence that the ﬁrm’s social responsibility repu-
tation is signiﬁcantly associated with lower wages (Nyborg
and Zhang 2013). People are often even willing to sacriﬁce
some percentage of their pay to work for a socially respon-
sible employer. Haski-Leventhal and Concato (2016) ﬁnd
that 14% of business students are willing to sacriﬁce more
than 40% of their future income to work for an organization
committed to CSR.
Self-righteousness can occur when employees identify
strongly with their employing ﬁrm. Social identity theory
suggests that individuals identify with entities in order to
increase their self-worth and to distinguish themselves from
the out-group (Ashforth and Mael 1989). Consequently,
CSR may not only build bridges by strengthening diver-
sity and cohesion, but may also create walls that separate
individuals from one another, causing discrimination and
other forms of exclusion built on moral high ground (thereby
determining right from wrong behavior). Self-righteousness
314 S.A.Brieger et al.
may also lead to the eﬀect that employees are less willing
to behave responsibly in non-work contexts if the organiza-
tion’s CSR engagement results in moral licensing. Moral
licensing is “the psychological process that leads people to
engage in morally questionable behavior after having pre-
viously engaged in socially desirable behavior” (Ormiston
and Wong 2013, p.865). Research indicates that people who
recalled their own past moral actions subsequently show
lower levels of prosocial intentions and behaviors (Blanken
etal. 2015). Accordingly, if employees think they are behav-
ing very morally by working for a responsible business, they
might also think they have earned suﬃcient moral credit
to achieve moral balance should they choose to engage in
immoral non-work behavior (Mullen and Monin 2016; Sach-
deva etal. 2009).
The previously outlined risks can occur in isolation, but
may also be mutually dependent. For instance, as self-sacri-
ﬁcing employees tend to assign higher priority to intangible
recompenses derived from serving others’ needs while giv-
ing up tangible recompenses (such as monetary promotion
or vacations) (Roh etal. 2016), self-sacriﬁce can undermine
an employee’s personal development and growth and result
in both stagnant income and low skills acquisition and pro-
ﬁciency. Moreover, self-sacriﬁce can also aﬀect self-right-
eousness in the form that employees who self-sacriﬁce via
long hours and hard work in the service of others perceive
themselves to be comparatively important to other human
beings, thus creating a separation between themselves and
out-group members who do not pursue an “important”
job. In the following section, we develop and empirically
test a model that links employee self-sacriﬁce caused by
organizational CSR activities to employee work addiction.
We discuss how a relationship between CSR and employee
work addiction might be mediated by two central factors—
organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness—and
how an employee’s prosocial orientation further moderates
Work Addiction: The Best‑Dressed Mental
Health Problem inBusiness
The concept of work addiction is well known under the label
workaholism (a combination of work and alcoholism). The
academic literature deﬁnes work addiction as “the compul-
sion or uncontrollable need to work incessantly” (Oates
1971, p.11). Workaholics become stressed if they are pro-
hibited from working, leading them to ignore warnings to
reduce their workload. Workaholics invest excessive time
and energy in their work, work more than is demanded by
implicit and explicit norms, and neglect other spheres of
their life such as family, friendships, or health (Andreassen
etal. 2012; Burke and Fiksenbaum 2009; Machlowitz 1980).
Accordingly, work addiction can have negative psychologi-
cal, physical, and social eﬀects for addicted employees,
as well as for the people around them (Andreassen 2013).
For instance, workaholics are often less happy, suﬀer from
physical and mental health problems, report higher levels
of exhaustion, and have more trouble sleeping (Burke 2000,
2001; Caesens etal. 2014; Kubota etal. 2010; Matsudaira
etal. 2013; Schaufeli etal. 2009). Also, spouses of worka-
holics tend to report lower levels of happiness with their
marriages, while children of workaholics tend to be more
depressed (Carroll and Robinson 2000; Robinson etal.
Most deﬁnitions consider work addiction as a chronic
behavioral pattern and a relatively stable individual charac-
teristic (Andreassen etal. 2010). However, work addiction
is not necessarily an inner impulse; it can also be driven by
external forces. Organizational culture and norms, workplace
peer pressure, and employee competition often play vital
roles in the willingness to work excessively and compul-
sively. In fact, organizations worldwide tend to reward and
encourage workaholic behaviors (Andreassen etal. 2010;
Burke 2001). Regardless of whether in liberal, coordinated,
mixed market, or even planned economies, employees work-
ing excessively have been highly appreciated and admired
by their organizations. Since workaholics tend to outper-
form their peers and build up strong relationships during the
long hours they work daily, organizations oﬀer them more
power and inﬂuence, and make it easier for them to climb
the ladder. Also, the increased usage of digital technology
in organizations (e.g., laptops and home computers, email
communication, and mobile phones) serves to enable worka-
holic behaviors (Burke 2001). Flexible working schedules
allow employees to work from home or elsewhere, leading
to a blurring of the boundary between work and private life.
Consequently, life in the digital age is increasingly charac-
terized by the incursion of work into private life.
The heightened complexity of work as a consequence of
new technologies and various other factors (such as glo-
balization) blurs the lines of traditional labor. It aﬀects
more non-linear and decentralized forms of work, which
demand new coordination mechanisms to orient and guide
both individual and collective behavior. Current manage-
ment models account for this by placing organizational and
individual purpose at the center of a given model, which
then serves as an attractor and motivator in the absence of
top-down leadership (Kirchgeorg etal. 2017). In the absence
of overarching standards in the workplace, and given the
increased frequency of remote work, CSR as a corporate
purpose stimulates organizational culture with a sense of
shared higher ideals, goals, values, and norms that promote
personal importance and responsibility, as well as collective
commitment to common and meaningful goals (Chatman
and Cha 2003; Costas and Kärreman 2013). Accordingly, a
315Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
strong organizational culture with shared values and norms
committed to CSR directs employees’ attention towards
organizational priorities and goals that guide their inten-
tions, behaviors, and decision-making.
The prevalence of work addiction is diﬃcult to detect
due to a lack of reliable statistics. Porter (1996) claims that
one in four employees is a workaholic. A study on work
addiction found that approximately 10% of the general U.S.
population may be workaholics (Andreassen 2013; Sussman
etal. 2011). Sussman (2012) states that self-identiﬁed work
addiction aﬀects a third of the working population. Other
studies report that the rate of work addiction is particularly
high among college-educated people (approximately 8 to
17.5%) and in professional occupations (approximately 23 to
25%) such as lawyers, doctors, and psychologists (Doerﬂer
and Kammer 1986; Sussman 2012). Recent research ﬁnds
that work addiction is more widespread among manage-
ment-level employees and in speciﬁc sectors like construc-
tion, communications, consultancy, and commercial trades
(Andreassen etal. 2012; Taris etal. 2012).
The Eect ofOrganizational CSR Engagement
onEmployee Work Addiction
Our model seeks to create understanding about the impact of
organizational CSR engagement on employee work addic-
tion, as well as the underlying mechanisms. First, we argue
that organizations with CSR policies and activities can help
employees to balance demands at work and in their personal
lives. Accordingly, we develop a resource-based perspective
on CSR, arguing that in general CSR provides the means,
capabilities, features, and controls that are beneﬁcial for
employees to avoid the symptoms of work addiction. Some
of the most notable of those symptoms are an intense fear
of failure at work, an obsession with work-related success,
overwork, and feelings of guilt for not working enough.
Thus, employees who work for socially responsible organi-
zations should be less willing to free up more time to work
or spend significantly more time working than initially
The literature documents a positive impact of CSR on
employment and working conditions (Aguinis and Glavas
2012; Jamali and Karam 2018). Organizations committed
to CSR not only provide and promote occupational safety
and health, human resource development, and diversity, but
also work-life balance and support for working families.
Work-life beneﬁts like vacation, ﬂex time, child and elderly
care, leave (e.g., paternity), and limited work hours are com-
mon internal CSR activities. To promote work-life balance,
many organizations monitor work hours, improve overtime
supervision, and encourage the use of holidays. For instance,
the Yamaha Group, a Japanese multinational corporation,
highlights the promotion of work-life balance, including
the reduction of total working hours, as an important CSR
policy on their website (Yamaha 2017):
In order to reduce total working hours and prevent
excessive work, Yamaha Corporation established
guidelines for overtime through labor-management
agreement. […] We have programs such as “All Go
Home at the Same Time Day,” which encourage all
employees to leave work on time, and programs to urge
employees to fully use their paid leave days.
Accordingly, since socially responsible organizations fol-
low strategies to reduce the risk of work addiction, employ-
ees should be less aﬀected by work addiction and in turn
put more priority on other important spheres of life, such
as health or personal relationships (Andreassen etal. 2012).
While the focus of internal CSR activities on work addic-
tion is documented, as can be inferred from the above, there
seems to be no evidence yet of how external CSR activi-
ties may aﬀect work-life imbalances. We suggest that nega-
tive eﬀects of external CSR on work addiction may also
be observed, due to a potential negative eﬀect of external
CSR on internal competition. Theories on work orientation
propose certain trade-oﬀs between employees’ pursuit of
promotion and advancement and the pursuit of contribut-
ing to the common good and improving the world beyond
individual self-interest (Wrzesniewski 2003). Hence, an
organization’s external CSR activities allow employees to
become aware that there is something bigger than their indi-
vidual welfare, such as the common good. This may pro-
mote a work environment that is less focused on individual
performance and career progress, which, consequently,
may increase teamwork and decrease internal competition
and the likelihood of engaging in excessive work. Recent
research shows that CSR positively aﬀects team performance
via team eﬃcacy and team self-esteem (Lin etal. 2012).
Based on the insight that organizations adopting CSR ini-
tiatives have a positive eﬀect on employees, we hypothesize
an inverse relationship between organizational CSR engage-
ment and employee work addiction. Thus, our ﬁrst hypoth-
esis is as follows:
Hypothesis 1 Corporate social responsibility is negatively
related to employee work addiction.
The Mediating Role ofOrganizational Identication
Although we argue that CSR is essentially a positive
resource for employees, we also think that CSR can be a
danger and increase employee work addiction. We think
this is true primarily when employees develop a strong
316 S.A.Brieger et al.
identiﬁcation with their organization. An important concep-
tualization of identiﬁcation is found in social identity theory
(Blader and Tyler 2009; Tajfel and Turner 1986). According
to social identity theory, members of social groups such as
organizations strive to experience a positive distinctiveness
through their aﬃliation with those organizations. People
tend to identify with prestigious organizations to derive a
positive social identity (Ashforth and Mael 1989), basking in
a reﬂected glory that allows for more positive assessments.
Organizations that contribute to a greater good allow for
better self-perceptions of one’s own group, as well as for
positive expectations of others’ perceptions of one’s own
group. The inherent positive value of external CSR activi-
ties and policies, which are concerned with caring for others
and the environment and are thus a contribution to a greater
good, can serve as a source of identiﬁcation and positive
self-image (Brammer etal. 2007; Glavas and Kelley 2014;
Rosso etal. 2010). Research documents the positive eﬀect
of CSR on employees’ identiﬁcation with their employing
ﬁrm (Brammer etal. 2015; Glavas and Godwin 2013; Kim
etal. 2010). Even in industries with problematic images,
such as the oil industry, employees who perceive a stronger
CSR orientation of their employing organization report
higher levels of organizational identiﬁcation (De Roeck and
Since employees tend to identify more closely with
socially responsible organizations, we hypothesize that
employees with higher levels of organizational identiﬁcation
are likely to exceed healthy levels of engagement in work,
and are more likely to obtain higher levels of work addiction.
This may be because employees with high levels of organi-
zational identiﬁcation are likely to have a self-image that is
partially dependent on their organization’s image, which in
turn depends on the organization’s success. Such employees,
therefore, may have a stronger incentive to contribute to their
organization’s success by putting in above-average eﬀort.
Employees that show such a psychological reliance on their
organization—in addition to a material dependency—may
be more prone to work addiction.
Moreover, social exchange theory, which highlights the
importance of reciprocity in intentions and behaviors, pro-
vides additional support for this argument (Farooq etal.
2014). According to social exchange theory, individuals
tend to give back if they receive a beneﬁt from another per-
son. Accordingly, a socially responsible organization that
gives priority to internal CSR, and thus cares for the well-
being of its employees, may make employees feel obliged
to reciprocate such voluntary socially responsible engage-
ments. Consequently, employees with high organizational
identiﬁcation could feel a higher motivation for reciprocal
actions and may thus be more willing to invest in the welfare
of the organization through a strong focus on work. Also,
if employees think they should give back to their socially
responsible employing organization, they may have feelings
of guilt and anxiety if they perceive themselves as not work-
ing hard enough for the welfare of that organization (Farooq
etal. 2014). Employees with strong organizational identiﬁ-
cation may thus want to support their employing organiza-
As far as we know, there is only scant evidence of the
relationship between organizational identification and
employee work addiction. In an early study, Avanzi etal.
(2012) present empirical support that strong organizational
identiﬁcation leads to a higher level of work addiction. Thus,
we hypothesize that organizational identiﬁcation is posi-
tively associated with employee work addiction. Besides,
for the reasons mentioned earlier, organizational identiﬁca-
tion is likely to help explain the relationship between CSR
engagement and employee work addiction, thereby acting as
a suppressor variable that buﬀers the negative direct eﬀect of
CSR on employee work addiction. Therefore, we formulate
our hypotheses as follows:
Hypothesis 2a Corporate social responsibility is positively
related to organizational identiﬁcation.
Hypothesis 2b Organizational identiﬁcation is positively
related to work addiction.
Hypothesis 2c Organizational identification positively
mediates the negative relationship between corporate social
responsibility and employee work addiction.
The Mediating Role ofWork Meaningfulness
Work meaningfulness is deﬁned as the value of a work goal
or purpose judged in relation to an individual’s ideals or
standards (May etal. 2004; Spreitzer 1995). Aguinis and
Glavas (2017) categorize meaningfulness as a fundamental
human need. In a reﬁned conception of meaningfulness, the
authors describe the sense-making process in which the indi-
vidual derives meaning from work as a multi-level construct
comprising individual, organizational, and societal-level fac-
tors (e.g., national culture). These three factors determine
whether employees actively make their work meaningful
by applying diﬀerent tactics, such as emphasizing (or not
emphasizing) the positive aspects of work.
Variables such as work environment have not been stud-
ied much by researchers in the search for meaningfulness at
work (Aguinis and Glavas 2017). Organizational CSR activi-
ties seem particularly promising as a source of meaningful-
ness for the members of an organization since they explicitly
comprise caring for others and the environment (Glavas and
Kelley 2014). Scholars argue that signaling the contribution
to a greater good is a primary source of work meaningful-
ness (Glavas and Kelley 2014; Rosso etal. 2010). Glavas
317Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
and Kelley (2014) ﬁnd ﬁrst empirical support for a positive
association of CSR and work meaningfulness. Against this
background, we hypothesize a positive inﬂuence of CSR on
So far, there is limited research on the work meaning-
fulness-work addiction linkage. Typically, the literature on
meaningfulness assumes positive linear consequences, such
as more meaningfulness is better than less or no meaningful-
ness at work. What we know from the literature is that work
meaningfulness is an important determinant of engagement
in work, and that its downside aﬀects both employees and
self-employed workers. For instance, May etal. (2004) show
that, on a psychological level, meaningfulness is the most
important antecedent of engagement in work. Moreover,
their research reveals high and signiﬁcant correlations of
meaningfulness and psychological availability. In addition,
the exploitative potential of work, primarily based on per-
sonal meaningfulness, is well documented in the artistic and
creative industries (e.g., Duﬀy 2016; Tokumitsu 2015). Fol-
lowing this line of thought, we aim to test a more controver-
sial perspective on the meaningfulness of work in the light
of CSR measures. We assume that the personal meaningful-
ness of one’s work environment partly explains excessive
immersion in work and a compulsive drive to work while
neglecting other important spheres of life. Consequently, we
hypothesize that meaningfulness partially mediates the rela-
tionship between CSR and employee work addiction. Thus,
our next hypotheses are as follows:
Hypothesis 3a Corporate social responsibility is positively
related to work meaningfulness.
Hypothesis 3b Work meaningfulness is positively related
to work addiction.
Hypothesis 3c Work meaningfulness positively mediates the
negative relationship between corporate social responsibility
and employee work addiction.
The Moderating Role ofPublic Value Awareness
Public value awareness is based on Meynhardt’s public
value theory, which seeks to operationalize contributions
to the common good through a psychology-based lens
(Meynhardt 2009; Meynhardt and Gomez 2016). Public
value awareness seeks to identify which publics or higher
social unit individuals relate to, and to what extent indi-
viduals consider the welfare of these publics in their own
intentions and behaviors (Meynhardt and Fröhlich 2019).
Thus, public value awareness refers to the extent to which
an individual considers speciﬁc social units and their basic
needs as relevant in evaluations. As such, it also relates to
an individual’s emotional-motivational forces concerning
the common good, and plays an integral part in an indi-
vidual’s evaluative, sense-making, and identity-shaping
mechanisms. Individuals with higher levels of public value
awareness for a particular higher social unit (such as their
local community, their nation, or the world) are likely to
care for the welfare of these units and derive a sense of
meaning and identity from them.
We argue that public value awareness plays an essential
moderating role in the positive relationships between CSR
and both mediators organizational identiﬁcation and work
meaningfulness. We assume that the extent to which an
employee shows awareness of a public’s welfare aﬀects the
inﬂuence of CSR on the employee’s level of organizational
identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness. If an organization
adopts CSR policies, thereby caring for the environment
and social well-being, it demonstrates care for the wider
public—whether the local community, a nation, or the
world as a whole. Accordingly, if employees have a high
awareness of the welfare of the public and thus show a
high prosocial orientation, a strong organization-person
ﬁt exists. This should result in positive outcomes concern-
ing organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness
(Meynhardt etal. 2018). Thus, we assume:
Hypothesis 4a The positive relationship between corporate
social responsibility and organizational identiﬁcation is posi-
tively moderated by public value awareness.
Hypothesis 4b The positive relationship between corporate
social responsibility and work meaningfulness is positively
moderated by public value awareness.
Moreover, it can be expected that higher levels of public
value awareness will also impact the mediators’ indirect
eﬀects on employee work addiction, as also suggested by
the evidence of the eﬀects of similar forms of congru-
ence on the relationship between organizational values and
employee commitment (Boxx etal. 1991). As a result,
employees with increased public value awareness should
report higher levels of work addiction when they perceive
themselves as working for a socially responsible ﬁrm.
From this follows:
Hypothesis 5a The positive indirect effect of corporate
social responsibility on work addiction via organizational
identiﬁcation is stronger if the level of public value aware-
ness is higher.
Hypothesis 5b The positive indirect eﬀect of corporate
social responsibility on work addiction via work meaning-
fulness is stronger if the level of public value awareness is
318 S.A.Brieger et al.
Data from the 2017 Swiss Public Value Atlas were used
in this study. The Public Value Atlas seeks to provide
transparency for the contributions of private and public
organizations, non-governmental organizations, and public
administrations to the common good (CLVS 2017; Meyn-
hardt etal. 2018). Data were collected from a representa-
tive panel of Swiss citizens (based on age, gender, educa-
tion, and geographic region) from the beginning of May
2017 until the end of June 2017 by intervista, a Swiss
market research institute. Intervista provided information
concerning 565 employees from the German-speaking part
of Switzerland. The questionnaire was tested in a qualita-
tive (N = 5) and quantitative pretest (N = 6) to check the
adequacy of the study as well as the comprehensibility of
the questions. Of the 565 employees between the ages of
19 and 75 (M = 42.82 years, SD = 12.49), 46% were female
and 54% male. Nearly 40% had tertiary education, and
68% worked full-time.
Work addiction was assessed by ﬁve items from the Bergen
Work Addiction Scale (Andreassen etal. 2012). The items
were: “How often during the last year have you become
stressed if you were not allowed to work?”, “…have you
deprioritized hobbies, leisure activities or exercise because
of your work?”, “…have you spent much more time work-
ing than initially intended?”, “…have you been told by
others to cut down on work and not listened to them?”,
and “…have you thought of how you could free up more
time to work?” The items were rated on a ﬁve-point Likert
scale (never, rarely, sometimes, often, and always). The
Cronbach’s alpha was 0.77.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The independent variable was measured by Glavas and
Kelley’s (2014) Perceived Corporate Social Responsibility
Scale. The scale consists of two four-item batteries cover-
ing social and environmental responsibilities of an organ-
ization. Examples of items include statements such as
“Contributing to the well-being of employees is a high pri-
ority at my organization” “Contributing to the well-being
of the community is a high priority at my organization,”
or “My organization takes great care that our work does
not hurt the environment.” Answers were given on a seven-
point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = completely agree).
The Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was 0.91.
Organizational identiﬁcation reﬂects a cognitive relationship
between employees and their organization, and was meas-
ured to assess employee-company identiﬁcation (Kim etal.
2010). The scale comprises three items: “I feel strong ties
with my company,” “I experience a strong sense of belong-
ingness to my company,” and “I am part of my company.”
Answers were given on a seven-point scale (1 = strongly
disagree to 7 = completely agree). The Cronbach’s alpha for
this scale was 0.94.
We applied Spreitzer’s (1995) three-item meaning scale
to assess work meaningfulness. The scale is a subscale of
the psychological empowerment construct comprising the
dimensions meaning, competence, self-determination, and
impact. One item was adapted from the meaningfulness
scale of Hackman and Oldham (1980). The purpose of the
scale is to assess the employee’s individual perception of the
work environment. The items were: “The job I do is very
important to me,” “My job activities are personally mean-
ingful to me,” and “The work I do is meaningful to me.”
Answers were given on a seven-point scale (1 = strongly
disagree to 7 = completely agree). The Cronbach’s alpha for
this scale was 0.92.
Public Value Awareness
Since individuals can relate to diﬀerent levels of inclusion
(e.g., work unit, local community, nation, or world), we used
three subscales based on Meynhardt and Fröhlich (2019)
that refer to a particular higher social unit (or public): local
community, nation, and world. Each subscale consists of
four items that are similar for each social unit. The items
were: “I wonder if my behavior is decent for the [social unit:
(1) world population, (2) people in Switzerland, (3) people
in my community (e.g., town, municipality)],” “…is use-
ful for the [respective social unit],” “…increases the quality
of life of the [respective social unit],” and “…strengthens
the cohesion of the [respective social unit].” Answers were
given on a six-point scale (1 = never to 6 = always), and the
average score of the four items of each subscale is used. We
labeled the three subscales “world value awareness,” “nation
value awareness,” and “community value awareness.” The
319Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
Cronbach’s alpha values were 0.93 for all three public value
We controlled for several respondent characteristics:
respondent age (as a continuous variable), gender (male = 1,
female = 2), education (nine groups, ranging from no school-
leaving certiﬁcate to high tertiary education), income (six
groups, ranging from a gross monthly income of less than
CHF 3000 to more than CHF 12,000), household size
(number of members), full-time job (part-time job = 0,
full-time job = 1), marital status (not in a relationship = 0,
in a relationship = 1), and supervisor status (i.e., whether
the respondent is a supervisor in the organization; no = 0,
yes = 1).
Two sets of analyses were conducted on the data. In the ﬁrst
step, we checked the potential for common method bias,
since all our measures come from one single source. We
employed Harman’s one-factor test using a principal compo-
nent analysis of all the items. The unrotated solution showed
no evidence of one dominant common factor. Six factors had
eigenvalues greater than 1, with the ﬁrst factor explaining
only 28% of the total variance. In addition, we employed
rotated factor loadings using promax rotation. The results
show that the constructs load on diﬀerent factors, conﬁrm-
ing validity. Thus, common method bias does not present a
signiﬁcant threat to the study. Reliability was tested using
estimates of Cronbach’s alpha coeﬃcients. All Cronbach’s
alpha coeﬃcients (ranging from 0.77 to 0.94) were higher
than the recommended value of 0.70, thus showing high
internal consistency and reliability (Nunnally 1978).
In the second step, the main hypotheses were tested.
Table1 presents the descriptive statistics and correlations
of the variables used in this study. The results show that
Swiss employees show moderate levels of work addiction
(M = 2.49, SD = 0.75) and tend to evaluate the CSR perfor-
mance of their employing ﬁrms as relatively high (M = 4.65,
SD = 1.15). Furthermore, above-average means were found
for the mediators organizational identiﬁcation (M = 5.10,
SD = 1.55) and work meaningfulness (M = 5.58, SD = 1.27),
and the moderator variables world value awareness
(M = 3.22, SD = 1.26), nation value awareness (M = 3.55,
SD = 1.20), and community value awareness (M = 3.58,
SD = 1.21).
The results of the correlation matrix show that there are
signiﬁcant and positive bivariate relationships between work
addiction and work meaningfulness (r = 0.11), supervisor
(r = 0.18), full-time job (r = 0.11), and the three types of
Table 1 Correlation matrix
Correlations p < 0.05 appear in bold type. N = 565
Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
1. Work addiction 2.49 0.75 1
2. CSR 4.65 1.15 − 0.02 1
3. Organizational identiﬁcation 5.10 1.55 0.07 0.57 1
4. Work meaningfulness 5.58 1.27 0.11 0.44 0.72 1
5. World value awareness 3.22 1.26 0.17 0.04 0.00 − 0.03 1
6. Nation value awareness 3.55 1.20 0.18 0.15 0.12 0.06 0.69 1
7. Community value awareness 3.58 1.21 0.16 0.14 0.13 0.09 0.59 0.70 1
8. Age 42.82 12.49 0.01 0.09 0.15 0.23 0.03 0.09 0.08 1
9. Gender (female) 1.46 0.50 0.01 − 0.02 − 0.07 − 0.04 0.06 − 0.07 0.00 − 0.18 1
10. Education 7.28 1.69 − 0.04 − 0.06 0.00 0.03 0.09 0.02 0.08 − 0.04 − 0.02 1
11. Income 4.23 1.34 − 0.06 0.03 0.16 0.18 − 0.10 − 0.07 0.02 0.12 − 0.12 0.31 1
12. Household size 2.39 1.16 0.01 0.05 0.03 0.08 − 0.05 − 0.01 0.02 − 0.01 − 0.11 0.06 0.32 1
13. Marital status 0.55 0.50 − 0.03 0.05 0.15 0.13 − 0.04 − 0.02 0.01 0.32 − 0.11 0.06 0.41 0.42 1
14. Supervisor 0.41 0.49 0.18 0.12 0.19 0.16 − 0.04 0.04 0.07 0.24 − 0.08 0.07 0.18 0.03 0.11 1
15. Full-time job 0.68 0.47 0.11 0.05 0.05 0.01 − 0.06 − 0.06 − 0.03 − 0.13 − 0.32 0.04 0.19 − 0.04 − 0.02 0.14
320 S.A.Brieger et al.
public value awareness: world (r = 0.17), nation (r = 0.18),
and community value awareness (r = 0.16). Furthermore,
CSR shows positive associations with the mediators organi-
zational identiﬁcation (r = 0.57) and work meaningfulness
(r = 0.44), public value awareness (r = 0.15 for nation value
awareness, and r = 0.14 for community value awareness),
and supervisor (r = 0.12). The mediators are strongly cor-
related with each other (r = 0.72), and both are signiﬁcantly
and positively related to community value awareness,
income, marital status, and supervisor. Table2 presents the
results of the mediated regression analysis. We ﬁrst ran a
base model to test the eﬀect of CSR on work addiction. The
results of Model 1 indicate a negative association between
CSR and work addiction (b = − 0.050; p < 0.1). Accord-
ingly, employees who work for a socially responsible busi-
ness report lower levels of work addiction, thus supporting
Hypothesis 2a was supported as the results of Model 2a
show a positive association of CSR and organizational iden-
tiﬁcation (b = 0.731; p < 0.01). Model 2b provides evidence
for a positive relationship between organizational identiﬁca-
tion and work addiction (b = 0.056; p < 0.05), indicating that
employees who identify more closely with their employing
organization tend to be more work addicted. Thus, Hypoth-
esis 2b was supported. We conducted a Sobel test to inves-
tigate the formal signiﬁcance of a possible mediation eﬀect.
The result of the Sobel test reveals that organizational iden-
tiﬁcation is a mediator of the eﬀect of perceived CSR on
work addiction (z = 2.229; p < 0.01). Thus, Hypothesis 2c
Moreover, Model 3a provides support for Hypothesis 3a.
Employees who perceive their employing ﬁrm to be socially
responsible show higher levels of work meaningfulness
(b = 0.460; p < 0.01). Also, a signiﬁcant positive relationship
between work meaningfulness and work addiction was found
(b = 0.092; p < 0.01), thus providing support for Hypothesis
3b. Finally, support for Hypothesis 3b was found, as the
result of the Sobel test conﬁrms a mediating role of work
meaningfulness in the relationship between CSR and work
addiction (z = 3.202; p < 0.01).
The results indicate that both mediators act as suppres-
sor variables, buﬀering the negative direct eﬀect of CSR
on employee work addiction. While the direct eﬀect of
CSR on work addiction is negative (b = − 0.091; p < 0.01
Table 2 Results for mediation eﬀects
N = 565
Signiﬁcant levels: *p < 0.1; **p < 0.05; ***p < 0.01
Dependent variable Work addiction  Org. identiﬁca-
Work addiction [2b] Work meaning-
Work addiction [3b]
CSR − 0.050* 0.731*** − 0.091*** 0.460*** − 0.092***
Organizational identiﬁcation 0.056**
Work meaningfulness 0.092***
World value awareness − 0.050* 0.731*** − 0.091*** − 0.076 0.051
Nation value awareness 0.044 − 0.086 0.048 0.002 0.067
Community value awareness 0.067 0.050 0.064 0.059 0.027
Age − 0.000 0.004 − 0.000 0.018*** − 0.002
Gender (female) 0.099 − 0.096 0.104 0.056 0.094
Education − 0.021 0.003 − 0.021 0.021 − 0.023
Income − 0.055** 0.120** − 0.061** 0.115*** − 0.065**
Household size 0.039 − 0.100* 0.045 0.018 0.037
Marital status − 0.019 0.253* − 0.033 − 0.028 − 0.016
Supervisor 0.298*** 0.241** 0.285*** 0.114 0.288***
Full-time job 0.224*** − 0.035 0.226*** − 0.021 0.226***
Constant 1.883*** 0.997* 1.827*** 1.950*** 1.703***
R20.102 0.367 0.110 0.259 0.119
F value 5.197*** 26.70*** 5.236*** 16.05*** 5.748***
Sobel test (z) 2.229*** 3.202***
Indirect eﬀect 0.041** 0.042***
321Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
for the organizational identiﬁcation model, and b = − 0.092;
p < 0.01 for the work meaningfulness model), the indirect
eﬀects of CSR on work addiction via organizational iden-
tiﬁcation (b = 0.041; p < 0.05) and work meaningfulness
(b = 0.042; p < 0.01) are positive, providing evidence for a
so-called inconsistent mediation (or suppression eﬀect). In
other words, employees who work for a socially responsible
business report lower levels of work addiction. However, at
the same time, employees who work for a socially respon-
sible ﬁrm also identify more strongly with their employing
ﬁrm and perceive their work as more meaningful, which in
turn motivates them to assign higher priority to their work.
In consequence, increases in organizational identiﬁcation
and work meaningfulness weaken the positive role of CSR.
However, the negative direct eﬀects of CSR on work addic-
tion are still higher than the indirect eﬀects through which
CSR positively aﬀect work addiction via the mediators. This
indicates that CSR still weakens employee work addiction,
even if the impact is smaller than it would be if employees
were not personally and emotionally attached by the CSR
commitment of their employing ﬁrms. Since the direct and
indirect eﬀects cancel each other out, we also observe that
the direct eﬀects in the Models 2b and 3b are even larger
than the total eﬀect of CSR on employee work addiction in
Model 1. Thus, consistent with an overall suppression eﬀect,
the negative eﬀect of CSR on work addiction is enhanced
when we control for organizational identiﬁcation and work
A further post hoc analysis was carried out to identify dif-
ferences between employees who report above-average and
below-average levels of work addiction. The full results are
available from the authors upon request. We ﬁnd evidence
that our hypotheses are fully conﬁrmed only for employees
who report above-average levels of work addiction. This
is plausible because employees who are not susceptible to
work addiction should tend to be less inﬂuenced in their
workaholism by CSR, organizational identiﬁcation, or work
Tables3 and 4 present the results of the moderation
analysis and the moderated mediation analysis. We ﬁrst
tested whether the interaction of CSR and public value
awareness is signiﬁcant in predicting organizational iden-
tiﬁcation and work meaningfulness. The results in Table3
reveal that both world and nation value awareness amplify
Table 3 Results for moderation eﬀects
N = 565
Signiﬁcant levels: * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01.
Dependent variable Organizational identiﬁcation Work meaningfulness
[4a] [4b] [4c] [5a] [5b] [5c]
CSR 0.482*** 0.464*** 0.509*** 0.133 0.132 0.286**
World value awareness − 0.446** − 0.087 − 0.090 − 0.548*** − 0.077 − 0.079
Nation value awareness 0.051 − 0.303 0.044 0.003 − 0.430*** − 0.002
Community value awareness 0.073 0.073 − 0.204 0.051 0.052 − 0.161
× World value awareness 0.076** 0.100***
× Nation value awareness 0.075** 0.092***
× Community value awareness 0.061 0.047
Age 0.004 0.004 0.004 0.017*** 0.017*** 0.017***
Gender (female) − 0.086 − 0.097 − 0.092 0.070 0.055 0.059
Education 0.001 0.004 0.004 0.018 0.021 0.021
Income 0.125*** 0.124*** 0.120** 0.122*** 0.120*** 0.115***
Household size − 0.101* − 0.103* − 0.096* 0.016 0.015 0.021
Marital status 0.245* 0.247* 0.245* − 0.039 − 0.036 − 0.034
Supervisor 0.247** 0.239** 0.240** 0.121 0.111 0.112
Full-time job − 0.060 − 0.059 − 0.056 − 0.054 − 0.051 − 0.038
Constant 2.236*** 2.336*** 2.086** 3.575*** 3.591*** 2.801***
R20.373 0.372 0.370 0.272 0.270 0.261
F value 25.17*** 25.13*** 24.92*** 15.86*** 15.66*** 15.00***
322 S.A.Brieger et al.
the positive eﬀect of CSR on organizational identiﬁca-
tion (b = 0.076; p < 0.05 for world value awareness, and
b = 0.075; p < 0.05 for nation value awareness), and work
meaningfulness (b = 0.100; p < 0.01 for world value aware-
ness, and b = 0.092; p < 0.01 for nation value awareness),
respectively. However, the interaction terms for CSR with
community value awareness were non-signiﬁcant in pre-
dicting organizational identiﬁcation and work engage-
ment. Therefore, Hypotheses 4a and 4b were only partially
Finally, we tested the moderated mediation Hypotheses
5a and 5b. We found that the indirect eﬀect of CSR on work
addiction via each mediator diﬀers for employees across low
and high levels of public value awareness. The results of
Table4 indicate that for organizational identiﬁcation and
work meaningfulness, the conditional indirect eﬀect is posi-
tive and diﬀerent from zero for all levels of public value
awareness. However, that eﬀect is stronger at higher levels
of world, nation, and community value awareness. This indi-
cates that the negative eﬀect of CSR on work addiction is
more strongly buﬀered if the employee gives strong priority
to the welfare of the wider public (i.e., local community,
nation, or world), thus having a strong ﬁt with the socially
responsible employing organization. A strong public value
awareness ampliﬁes the positive impact of CSR on each
mediator, by which work addiction levels begin to rise even
more. To gain a better understanding of the nature of these
signiﬁcant interactions, the corresponding graphs are plot-
ted in Fig.2. Thus, Hypotheses 5a and 5b were supported.
The existing business ethics literature has predominantly
focused on the positive outcomes of CSR for stakeholders.
In the past, this has been primarily with respect to external
stakeholders. Recently, it has paid increasing attention to
internal stakeholders (Glavas and Kelley 2014; Meynhardt
etal. 2018). Recent research investigating the inﬂuence
of CSR on employee attitudes, intentions, and behaviors
highlights the positive eﬀects of CSR on employee job
and life satisfaction, organizational identiﬁcation, work
engagement, and proactive work behavior (Glavas and
Piederit 2009; Glavas and Kelley 2014; Meynhardt etal.
2018). However, the current debate fails to recognize the
potential dark side of CSR at the micro level. Hitherto,
negative outcomes of CSR were mostly reduced to the
macro level. For instance, some studies suggest a negative
eﬀect of CSR on ﬁnancial performance (e.g., Makni etal.
2009; Mittal etal. 2008). Moreover, while Bocquet etal.
(2013, 2017) report a positive eﬀect of strategic CSR on
a ﬁrm’s innovative capacity, they have also shown that
Table 4 Results for conditional indirect eﬀects
LL lower limit of conﬁdence interval (CI), UL upper limit of CI
N = 565
Mediator Moderator Level Dependent variable: work addiction
Indirect eﬀect SE z P>|z| LL 95% CI UL 95% CI
Organizational identiﬁcation World value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.033 0.016 2.11 0.035 0.002 0.064
Middle (M) 0.038 0.018 2.14 0.033 0.003 0.073
High (+ 1 SD) 0.043 0.020 2.13 0.033 0.003 0.083
Organizational identiﬁcation Nation value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.036 0.016 2.25 0.024 0.005 0.067
Middle (M) 0.041 0.018 2.29 0.022 0.006 0.076
High (+ 1 SD) 0.046 0.020 2.28 0.023 0.006 0.086
Organizational identiﬁcation Community value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.037 0.016 2.25 0.025 0.005 0.069
Middle (M) 0.041 0.018 2.28 0.022 0.006 0.076
High (+ 1 SD) 0.045 0.020 2.27 0.023 0.006 0.084
Work meaningfulness World value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.029 0.010 2.77 0.006 0.008 0.049
Middle (M) 0.039 0.013 3.05 0.002 0.014 0.065
High (+ 1 SD) 0.050 0.017 3.03 0.002 0.018 0.083
Work meaningfulness Nation value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.032 0.011 2.97 0.003 0.011 0.054
Middle (M) 0.043 0.013 3.25 0.001 0.017 0.068
High (+ 1 SD) 0.053 0.016 3.23 0.001 0.021 0.085
Work meaningfulness Community value awareness Low (− 1 SD) 0.037 0.012 3.02 0.003 0.013 0.061
Middle (M) 0.042 0.013 3.24 0.001 0.017 0.068
High (+ 1 SD) 0.047 0.015 3.18 0.001 0.018 0.077
323Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
responsive CSR engagement, which tends to be discon-
nected from a ﬁrm’s overall strategy, constitutes a barrier
to innovation. Additionally, CSR is also critically dis-
cussed as a source of capitalism’s legitimacy and pres-
ervation. For example, Banerjee (2008) sees CSR as an
ideological movement intended to consolidate and legiti-
mize the power of large corporations. As CSR helps com-
panies gain legitimacy and avoid criticism, it is used by
companies to preempt government regulation and control
(Kinderman 2011). With this study, we complement the
debate around the dark side of CSR by focusing on the
downsides at the micro level. We argue that CSR activities
should not be seen solely as a positive force, but also as a
potential threat to employees and their social systems. Our
model allows for a more balanced perspective and hints to
the downsides and risks of CSR. Our hypotheses reﬂect
the dichotomous eﬀects that can be evoked by organiza-
tional practices aiming to protect the environment and
In our ﬁrst step, we hypothesized that CSR could be clas-
siﬁed as a job resource that helps employees to achieve their
work goals, reduce job demands, and stimulate their per-
sonal growth and development (Schaufeli and Taris 2014).
We argue that organizations that promote CSR also sup-
port policies and mechanisms to prevent work overload and
counter work cultures that value work addiction. Indeed,
the signiﬁcant negative direct eﬀect of perceived CSR on
employee work addiction supports our view. It indicates that
employees who experience a CSR culture in their organiza-
tion also tend to have a healthier and more balanced atti-
tude towards work and are more likely to deprioritize other
spheres of life.
In our second step, we discuss why the negative eﬀect of
CSR on employee work addiction is buﬀered when employ-
ees identify with their employing organization and perceive
their work to be meaningful. Drawing on social identity
theory, we suggest that employees tend to show stronger
organizational identiﬁcation and perceive their work as
meaningful, worthwhile, and relevant when their employ-
ing organizations are willing to contribute to the common
good. In turn, if employees create strong relationships with
their organization and work, they may be more likely to
work harder and to think continually about both; in this
sense, CSR may contribute to the development of a strong
emotional linkage. Thus, we expect organizational identi-
ﬁcation and work meaningfulness to have mediating roles.
The study’s results support the proposed mediating roles
of organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness.
We ﬁnd that perceived CSR positively aﬀects organizational
identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness, and both mediators
in turn positively aﬀect employee work addiction. Since the
direct eﬀect of CSR on work addiction is negative, while the
indirect eﬀect of CSR on work addiction via each mediator
is positive, the eﬀects tend to cancel each other out. In other
words, organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningful-
ness buﬀer the negative impact of CSR on employee work
Fig. 2 Moderating eﬀects on the CSR–organizational identiﬁcation and CSR–work meaningfulness relationships
324 S.A.Brieger et al.
addiction. Organizations adopting CSR strategies can thus
unintentionally stimulate and cause employee work addic-
tion, harming the well-being of employees, their family
members, and their friends. This might counteract the posi-
tive intentions of socially responsible organization.
Finally, in our third step, we hypothesize a positive mod-
erating eﬀect of an employee’s public value awareness on
the relationship between perceived CSR and each mediator.
We present empirical evidence that an employee’s related-
ness to and concern for the welfare of higher social units
ampliﬁes the positive inﬂuence organizational CSR has on
the employee’s identiﬁcation with the employing organiza-
tion and their perception of having meaningful work. This
organization-person ﬁt—when both the employing organiza-
tion and the employee care for the common good—also has,
in turn, consequences for the extent to which employees are
willing to work excessively and neglect other spheres of life.
As the study’s results reveal, the indirect eﬀect of organiza-
tional CSR engagement on work addiction via organizational
identiﬁcation and work meaningfulness is stronger at higher
levels of employee public value awareness, implying that the
negative eﬀect of organizational CSR engagement on work
addiction will be signiﬁcantly absorbed if both the employee
and the employing ﬁrm give priority to social well-being and
Overall, the results show that CSR is a positive force
for employees but not as impactful as typically anticipated.
Today, individuals and organizations are expected to behave
in a socially responsible manner. Caring for the greater good
is fashionable for many valid reasons. People recognize that
social and environmental problems—whether inequality,
poverty, lack of educational opportunities, or ecological
destruction—have to be addressed (Brieger 2018; Schalteg-
ger and Hörisch 2017). However, an intense focus on other
people’s welfare can, as our results show, lead to an unin-
tended situation in which employees neglect both their own
lives and the lives of their families and friends. Undoubtedly,
CSR serves as a resource for the employee, as companies
that are committed to CSR protect their employees from
working excessive hours and care for their well-being. But
employees who derive more meaningfulness from their work
and identify more strongly with their employing organiza-
tion could beneﬁt less from this resource over the long run.
Moreover, CSR activities in particular can damage
employee well-being if a culture is built on the idea that the
concern for others outweighs everything else—including the
needs of employees themselves. This expands the conven-
tional lines of theoretical reasoning. Social identity theory
suggests that identiﬁcation is conditional upon the internal-
ization of group membership, and members who identify
with a group tend to behave in accordance with the group’s
norms and values (Ashforth and Mael 1989; Tajfel and
Turner 1986). In the process of internalization, individuals
take on and self-regulate group values and behavioral norms
(Deci and Ryan 2000). They identify with a group, and
the group becomes a signiﬁcant part of their self-concept.
Internalization literature associates positive eﬀects with
internalization, such as greater persistence, more positive
self-perception and self-evaluation, better quality of engage-
ment, and intrinsic motivation (Ryan and Deci 2000). This
study’s ﬁndings call for a more nuanced view of the eﬀects
of internalization of group norms and values. Our results
suggest that the stronger the internalization of the organiza-
tion’s values into one’s own self-concept, the more willing
one is to act in accordance with the goals of an organiza-
tion while devaluing other spheres of life. Some scholars
call this identity tension a “we versus me” phenomenon,
in which there is a major shift in identity towards a social
group (e.g., Kreiner etal. 2006). Therefore, a strong ethi-
cal ﬁt of employee and organization has unintended eﬀects
on employees, as employees with strong prosocial values
who work for a socially responsible ﬁrm show higher lev-
els of identiﬁcation with their employing ﬁrm and perceive
their work as more meaningful. Interestingly, because of the
strong organizational identity and the perception that they
are engaging in something meaningful, socially oriented
employees may not even realize that they are working exces-
sively and neglecting other spheres in life; instead, they are
more motivated at work, hold positive self-evaluations, and
report higher levels of job and life satisfaction.
Our study also contributes to a better understanding of
social exchange theory in the CSR discourse. If an employee
working for a socially responsible ﬁrm can increase his or
her perceived self-worth, experience strong support from
co-workers, and feel favorably treated by his or her socially
responsible employer, then he or she reciprocates by giving
back. Reciprocity should be even stronger when a socially
oriented employee works for a socially responsible organi-
zation. This may result in favorable work attitudes, organi-
zational commitment and support, organizational citizen-
ship behaviors, and higher job performance (Brammer etal.
2007; Cropanzano and Rupp 2008). However, as our results
suggest, there are unintended downsides of reciprocity if
heightened identiﬁcation with the employer and the percep-
tion of meaningful work stimulate employees to work harder.
The results of this study oﬀer important implications for
management practice. First of all, the ﬁndings should not be
interpreted as evidence that CSR activities harm employees,
or that organizations should invest less in (or stop) their CSR
engagement. Not only can CSR reduce the risk of employee
work addiction, as this study shows, but it is also associ-
ated with multiple positive employee outcomes, such as job
and life satisfaction, commitment, work engagement, and
325Too Much ofaGood Thing? On theRelationship Between CSR andEmployee Work Addiction
performance (Aguinis and Glavas 2017; Brammer etal.
2015; Meynhardt etal. 2018; Newman etal. 2015). Moreo-
ver, at the macro level, organizational contributions to more
sustainable development are not only desirable but necessary
in the face of today’s worldwide environmental and social
problems (Hörisch etal. 2017). In light of all the positive
eﬀects of CSR on both the micro and macro levels, it seems
wise for organizations to engage in CSR activities.
However, our research also emphasizes that organizations
should consider the positive eﬀects of CSR on their work-
force with care, as there may also be unintended negative
consequences. When perceived CSR engagement positively
inﬂuences an employee’s identiﬁcation with the employ-
ing organization, and their perception of doing meaningful
work, employees tend to work harder and longer and are
more unwilling to disengage from work activities. This rep-
resents a positive eﬀect of CSR on work addiction, which
can buﬀer or perhaps even outweigh the in principle negative
eﬀect of CSR activities on work addiction. Work addiction
and its potential negative consequences are common and
severe problems in organizations, and it is thus no surprise
that great eﬀort is made to address these problems (Burke
It is thus important for organizations to realize that CSR
can, while having many positive eﬀects on employees, also
cause certain negative eﬀects; in this case, an increase in
the risk of work addiction. Organizations should therefore
be aware of, and actively manage, the risk of work addiction
associated with CSR. By acknowledging that perceived CSR
engagement positively inﬂuences work addiction through
more organizational identiﬁcation and work meaningful-
ness, organizations might be able to develop more eﬀective
One strategy might be to help employees identify and
prioritize their individual and private needs, such as stay-
ing healthy and maintaining functioning relationships.
If employees realize that the fulﬁllment of these needs is
an additional source of meaning and identity, or at least a
precondition for fulﬁlled work, they might be less likely to
become addicted to work. Organizations could achieve this
through targeted training programs and coaching, together
with systemic measures such as ﬂexible work hours. More-
over, they could also ensure that leaders role-model the
desired behavior and actively support their employees. Pre-
vious research ﬁndings indicate that greater organizational
support for work-life balance reduces workaholic job behav-
iors (Burke 2001). In addition, leaders could try to increas-
ingly align their organization’s CSR activities with their core
business, instead of overly engaging in CSR activities that
are merely additional, symbolic, or compensatory. Focusing
on and creating awareness for the societal contributions an
organization makes through its core activities might help
leaders and employees achieve a similar alignment on the
individual level, so that an individual can be sure that dili-
gently completing their own day-to-day tasks—while staying
healthy and productive—is a suﬃcient contribution to the
Additional implications result from the fact that the
eﬀects of CSR on work meaningfulness and organizational
identiﬁcation seem to be stronger for employees with higher
public value awareness. Those employees that show high
consideration for the impact of their actions on their com-
munities, their nation, and the world as a whole, seem to be
more likely to derive a sense of meaning and identity from
their organization’s perceived CSR activities. As a result,
they are more likely to become addicted to work. This means
that on one hand, organizations can invest in increasing their
employees’ public value awareness to increase the impact of
their CSR practices on meaningfulness and organizational
identiﬁcation. On the other hand, organizations should be
aware that those employees with high degrees of public
value awareness may be in special need of the mitigation
approaches described above. In any case, approaches and
tools for understanding and inﬂuencing public value aware-
ness, as well as the meaningfulness and organizational iden-
tiﬁcation of individuals, should be developed and deployed
to eﬀectively mitigate the risk of work addiction.
Contributions, Limitations, andFuture Research
Our study oﬀers two main contributions. First, our research
signiﬁcantly adds to the CSR literature by answering calls
to focus on the individual level of analysis, i.e., how the
employee perceives organizational CSR endeavors, and how
this impacts individual-level outcomes (Aguinis and Gla-
vas 2017; Glavas and Kelley 2014). By exploring potential
moderators and mediators of the CSR-outcome relationship,
our study extends and reﬁnes recent studies analyzing the
impact of CSR. We provide a more contextualized under-
standing of the conditions by which CSR shapes employee
attitudes, intentions, and behaviors, and we also point to the
diﬀerent eﬀects of organizational CSR activities. Thus, an
important implication of our study is the need to view CSR
through dual lenses of value creation and occupation. While
we focused on the risk of work addiction (and consequent
self-sacriﬁce), future research should embrace all potential
downsides and risks of CSR, including those suggested pre-
viously (stagnation and self-righteousness).
Second, we contribute to the broader management litera-
ture by examining how employee perceptions of CSR are
related to employee work addiction and its underlying mech-
anisms. Evidence for the role of moderator and mediator
variables in the relationship between an organization’s CSR
engagement and employee work addiction remains inconclu-
sive. By broadening the theoretical framework, we empiri-
cally substantiate the idea that employee work addiction is
326 S.A.Brieger et al.
not the product of a single source, but rather a result of a
complex interplay of variables and constructs that remain
underexplored. Our results may stimulate other research-
ers aiming to understand the interplay between organiza-
tional actions directed towards society and individual-level
outcomes. Moreover, our research results indicate that the
respective variables should not be studied in isolation.
However, our ﬁndings should be considered in light of
several limitations that may constrain the generalizability
of the results. One limitation is the cross-sectional design of
our study, which does not allow causal relationships among
the variables to be determined; this fact may limit the valid-
ity of our ﬁndings. In order to account for the dynamic
nature of certain variables—such as work addiction or per-
ceived corporate social responsibility—a longitudinal design
would be preferable to a cross-sectional design.
An additional limitation is one that is prevalent in behav-
ioral sciences (Podsakoﬀ etal. 2003): the potential of sys-
tematic error variance in the form of common method bias.
We took steps that partially mitigate this limitation. First, to
reduce the risk of socially desirable responses, respondents
were promised anonymity and were not asked to provide
the name of their employing organization. Also, as recom-
mended by Podsakoﬀ etal. (2003), we varied the response
formats for predictor and criterion measures, and added a
number of reverse-coded items and open questions to the
survey. To reduce complexity, only a limited number of
items were displayed on the screen at a time. Additionally,
prior to data collection, we pretested item comprehensibility
and study length by collecting qualitative and quantitative
feedback. Furthermore, we added a number of control vari-
ables in order to detect shared aspects in cognition and thus
diﬀerences in response bias across groups (Meynhardt etal.
2018). The fact that our survey items were part of a large-
scale questionnaire decreases the risk of respondents being
able to guess the study objectives, thereby fostering response
consistency (Mohr and Spekman 1994). In addition, our
results did not reveal any response patterns. Consequently,
we believe that common method bias does not signiﬁcantly
inﬂuence the results of our study.
Finally, the scope of this study was limited to Switzer-
land. According to the OECD Better Life Index (2017), peo-
ple in Switzerland are generally more satisﬁed with their
lives and their jobs compared to the OECD average. Moreo-
ver, the mean level of work addiction in the Swiss sample
is 2.49, reﬂecting a generally modest level of workaholism.
Further studies need to be carried out in other countries in
order to validate these results. Despite these limitations, we
believe our conclusions are reasonable and consistent with
prior research. We are conﬁdent that other researchers can
take advantage of our empirical results to understand how
organizational CSR activities change employee work atti-
tudes and behavior.
Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the section edi-
tor Charlotte M. Karam and two anonymous reviewers for their very
helpful comments, criticism, and suggestions. Stefan Anderer wants
to thank the Friede Springer Foundation for the ﬁnancial support of
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest All ﬁve co-authors declare that they have no con-
ﬂict of interest.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creat iveco
mmons .org/licen ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribu-
tion, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate
credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the
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