Authenticity in the Pursuit of Mutuality During Crisis

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Employee wellbeing activities constitute a space for organisations to realise a shared agenda with employees, and therefore a means to pursue mutuality. The pursuit of mutuality draws on assumptions of reciprocity in social exchange theory (SET) but is dynamic and put under pressure by external shocks. The first UK COVID-19 lockdown provided the setting to explore how organisations addressed employee wellbeing concerns under conditions of crisis. Using qualitative data from five organisations, we identify authenticity-building, which is the constellation of past and present activities through which organisations channel efforts to be authentic in their concern for employees. Attributions of authenticity emerge as fundamental to authenticity-building, while authenticity-work (the organisation noticing, understanding and acting on shifts in interests) is enabled by dialogic processes. Authenticity-building shifts the quality of the exchange relationship to allow for mutual benefits and is therefore, a vital and dynamic component of mutuality. Our findings contribute to the mutuality literature by providing a theoretically-embedded extension of SET and show how organisations may become more (or less) authentic within the context of the employment relationship. We highlight the complexity of organisational endeavour for mutuality and show how mutuality need not be compromised during external shocks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 May 2022

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