Impression management and retrospective sense-making in corporate narratives: A social psychology perspective

  • Merkl-Davies D
  • Brennan N
  • McLeay S
  • 135


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 54


    Citations of this article.


Purpose – Prior accounting research views impression management predominantly though the lens of economics. Drawing on social psychology research, this paper seeks to provide a complementary perspective on corporate annual narrative reporting as characterised by conditions of “ex post accountability”. These give rise to impression management resulting from the managerial anticipation of the feedback effects of information and/or to managerial sense-making by means of the retrospective framing of organisational outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – A content analysis approach pioneered by psychology research is used, which is based on the psychological dimension of word use, to investigate the chairmen's statements of 93 UK listed companies. Findings – Results suggest that firms do not use chairmen's statements to create an impression at variance with an overall reading of the annual report. It was found that negative organisational outcomes prompt managers to engage in retrospective sense-making, rather than to present a public image of organisational performance inconsistent with the view internally held by management (self-presentational dissimulation). Further, managers of large firms use chairmen's statements to portray an accurate (i.e. consistent with an overall reading of the annual report), albeit favourable, image of the firm and of organisational outcomes (i.e. impression management by means of enhancement). Originality/value – The approach makes it possible to investigate three complementary scenarios of managerial corporate annual reporting behaviour: self-presentational dissimulation, impression management by means of enhancement, and retrospective sense-making.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Annual reports
  • Chairmen
  • Social psychology

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free