Author(s), Title and Publication
Kopaneva, I. M. (2019). Left in the dust: Employee constructions of mission and vision ownership. International Journal of Business Communication, 56(1), 122-145. doi: 10.1177/2329488415604457

For more than four decades, organizational mission and vision have attracted a great deal of attention by scholars and practitioners. Mission is a statement of the organization’s overall purpose, which explains what the organization stands for. Vision describes an ideal goal the organization strives to achieve in the future. Extant research has mostly approached mission and vision from managerial perspectives thus overlooking the role of employees in constructing mission and vision. The author of the current study conducted an exploratory study that examined mission and vision from the point of view of employees. In particular, this thematic analysis of 46 in-depth interviews with employees from 22 organizations focuses on how employees construct their mission and vision ownership, that is, how they relate to mission and vision and how they perceive their ability to control, change, or contribute to them.

The data revealed that employees, by and large, had difficulty connecting to their organization’s mission and vision, let alone feeling responsible for them. They experienced conflicting forces: those that drive the feeling of ownership and those that impede it. One the one hand, employees could see how mission and vision could be beneficial to themselves, the organization or both. Other driving forces were specific to mission or vision. Mission, with its emphasis on the organization’s current reason for being, could provoke feelings of ownership if it was relevant to and present in daily practices at the organization. Vision, with its focus on future and connection to leaders, could enhance feelings of ownership, if it was achievable, based on their trust in the leader, and/or perceived as desirable. Data revealed vision desirability may be constructed as either a desirable end goal to achieve or as a valuable learning process guided by a laudable, even if utopian, goal. To most participants, the source of mission and vision was clouded: they did not know who developed mission and vision or attributed authorship to “some kind of leadership team.” Only 3 of 46 participants considered a mission statement employees’ responsibility; none saw employees as authors of their organization’s vision. Along those lines, most participants (N=43) did not see an employee contribution to developing or implementing mission and vision as necessary or valuable. Previous research argues that vision needs to provide employees with a desirable and achievable challenge. This study suggests that while both qualities can invoke sympathy toward vision among employees, they should not be treated as sufficient conditions for employee ownership of vision.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) be aware that examining the role of employees in the construction of organizational reality and specifically two of its most powerful symbols—mission and vision—is important for the success of the organization and the individual, (2) understand how their employees view the organization’s purpose and goal, and (3) evaluate whether employees take responsibility for mission and vision.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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