Organization Management Journal


Fields are contested social arenas. By examining the case of a single organization, in this case a social enterprise, the author shows how organizations respond to legitimacy challenges from members of the field and how such responses shape the organization’s form and practices. At times, organizations endogenize, that is, incorporate practices from the field. Findings indicate that responses reflect strategies under constraint. Endogenizing institutionalized practices constrains managers’ ability to exercise agency. Endogenizing contested practices afford agency by allowing managers to translate those practices to accord with local exigencies. This article extends literature on impression management and institutional theory by showing how organizations respond to diffuse threats to legitimacy. In doing so, this article advances the study of organizational field dynamics and contention.