This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Dr. Yi Grace Ji and Dr. Weiting Tao examined CEO activism (a leader’s stance on a current political/social debate) and its ripple effects on employees. This study investigated the intricate dynamics between a CEO’s activist stance and the consequential shifts in employee attitudes and behaviors towards activism. Specifically, the scholars examined whether the CEO’s activism triggered employee feelings of gratitude, admiration, and elevation (observing others behaving virtuously), and subsequently their sense of virtuousness. The overarching aim of the study is to unravel how CEO behaviors and decisions potentially drive societal change within an organization, shaping the culture of its workforce.

A survey of 575 full-time employees in the U.S. was conducted in September 2021.

Key Findings

–CEO activism communication that emphasized care led to employees perceiving their organization as more virtuous.
–Care-focused leadership communication from CEOs motivated employees toward greater participation in prosocial activism activities, which include increasing donations to nonprofit organizations or other moral goodness acts.
–CEOs engaging in care-oriented communication resulted in heightened feelings of gratitude, aspiration, and elevation among employees.

Implications for Practice

CEOs should recognize and utilize the power of communication in facilitating employees’ social learning of care ethics. To effectively impart the values of care ethics to their employees, CEOs should strategically leverage various communication channels. These channels include town hall meetings, statements on the official website, social media posts, personal conversations, organizational newsletters, and intranet emails. Through these diverse mediums, CEOs have the opportunity to consistently highlight the importance of establishing relationships with diverse and marginalized communities, emphasizing that caring for the needs and feelings of these communities represents commendable ethical behavior.

Read the original study here.


Ji, Y. G., & Tao, W. (2024). Channeling Employees’ Positive Moral Emotions in CEO Activism: The Role of Care-Oriented Leadership Communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 1-23. 10.1080/1062726X.2024.2311147

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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