Insiya Hussain is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. Her research focuses on understanding how employees can overcome the challenges of speaking up at work to share their ideas and opinions, advocate social issues, and negotiate for personal rewards. Insiya’s research has been published in leading academic journals including Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, and Journal of Applied Psychology. Her work has also been featured in practitioner outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Bloomberg, and Harvard Business Review. She is a member of the Editorial Review Board at Academy of Management Journal and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Prior to joining academia, Insiya worked at J.P. Morgan’s investment bank and as a Project Manager at technology companies. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Columbia University, and her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of Maryland.
Social Impact Framing Can Inhibit Job Candidates from Negotiating
Is it just you, or does it seem like every other company these days is talking about they “make the world a better place?” This trend—known as social impact framing—appears to be on the rise. More than ever, both for-profits and non-profits are using language that communicates how their work benefits human welfare. They talk about their mission to benefit the greater good, and say they’re looking for job candidates with a passion for making a positive impact.
Now, to the extent that these companies are communicating authentically, this is obviously a wonderful thing. Prior research has shown that, for employees, feeling like your work makes a positive difference can be really motivating. In fact, many workers are even willing to give up higher pay for the chance to engage in meaningful work.
That said, in our recent research, my coauthors and I uncover a slightly less rosy reason why job candidates often don’t ask for higher wages when they’re exposed to social impact framing. It’s not necessarily because they don’t care to ask, it’s because they feel they can’t. Specifically, because of widespread cultural norms suggesting that money and altruism don’t mix, they assume—perhaps correctly—that asking for higher pay would be viewed as crass, greedy, and inappropriate by the hiring company. And as a result, they hold back from negotiating.
So our advice to job candidates is to invest in negotiation skills, and research hiring companies to make sure that asking for higher wages in a social impact context won’t be held against you. And for organizations that claim to care about human welfare, we recommend avoiding using social impact framing in a purely opportunistic manner—that is, as a tool to suppress employee pay.