Author(s), Title and Publication:

Kopaneva, I., & Sias, P. M. (2015). Lost in translation: Employee and organizational constructions of mission and vision. Management Communication Quarterly, 29(3), 358 – 384.


An organization’s mission and vision statements are the official texts that define what the organization is today and will be tomorrow. An effective vision can contribute to higher levels of employee job satisfaction, organizational commitment, lower levels of turn-over intentions and role ambiguity, and lower levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization at work. From the communicative constitution of organizations (CCO) perspective, employees and leaders share the role in driving the organization’s direction. This article reports a study that specifically explored the extent to which employees constructions and official mission and vision statements were congruent and if not congruent, how they differed.

Through in-depth interviews with 46 employee participants recruited from 23 organizations of various sizes and industries, this study revealed a significant incongruence between the official organizational mission and vision discourse and how employees actually perceive and enact the leader’s worldview. For example, results showed that on average, employees agreed with their organizations on only 17.9% of vision themes. Employees identified only 35% of the themes stated in their mission statements. In fact, official statements tended to be far more broad and complex than employee versions. This means that vision statements largely fall short of their very purpose—to unite members of the organization around a common goal and there is a lack of alignment between employees and official understandings of the company’s purpose.

Implications for Practitioners

Organization leaders should 1) understand that the shared purpose between employees and managers can sometimes be more important than the organizational structure, 2) assess whether and how employee constructions of their organizations’ mission and vision differ from the official statements, 3) actively develop communication strategies to enable negotiation and co-orientation of mission and vision and to create a unified discourse among leaders and followers, and 4) align the stated mission and vision to employees’ daily practice to avoid being perceived by employees as using mission and vision statements merely for public consumption and image management.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)


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