Why do established practices deinstitutionalize? An actor-centered approach

Sara Chaudhry, Jill Rubery

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Drawing on 63 in-depth interviews from three American multinationals, we investigate how individual actors negotiate the interplay of insider and outsider pressures on the deinstitutionalization of four employment practices in an institutionally complex setting. Existing institutional theory highlights different degrees of deinstitutionalization, from complete abandonment of practices to partial erosion, with an underlying presumption of organizations and actors striving for stability and stasis. However, our study finds that actor reconciliation of interacting insider and outsider pressures can result in three distinct phases of deinstitutionalization (complete, partial, and negotiated deinstitutionalization) which crucially coexist, suggesting perpetual instability and change. We conceptualize the individual-level enabling conditions for each of these different phases of deinstitutionalization, highlighting a range of actor responses as well as differences in how they exercise agency across each phase. Examining actor negotiation of the interplay of insider and outsider pressures improves our understanding of how individuals engage in differential institutional work when responding to practice deinstitutionalization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Early online date24 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Deinstitutionalization
  • Institutional work
  • agency
  • institutional complexity
  • multinationals
  • Global South

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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