Is your CSR agenda causing a talent backlash?

Is your CSR agenda causing a talent backlash?

by | Sep 28, 2022 | Balance and Boundaries, Business

Investors love it when organisations put a strong tick in the ‘S’ of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) box.  And today’s employment zeitgeist tells us CSR isn’t just the darling of the markets – employers and employees are also rather partial.

Why and is it a good thing?   

Changing societal values, evidenced by the groundswell in numbers prioritising their desire for a ‘purposeful life’ and lofty expectations of corporate agendas being reshaped according to ‘need not greed’, means companies often derive another bonus from the CSR ‘feel good factor’ beyond the increase in share price:

A strong CSR agenda also delivers a significant boost to their employees’ job and life satisfaction, performance levels, and trust in employer.   

This is pure gold in a tight labour market where nothing strikes fear faster than (quiet or loud) resignations from employees desiring greener pastures, yes?

Newsflash! The inconvenient truth is highly debatable.

Scientific peer reviewed research reveals CSR is not the straightforward win-win for investors, employers and employees that is claimed.

It has a more sinister side and can be the case of ‘too much of a good thing’.

Emerging data suggests CSR’s projection as a fairy-story fails to recognize the potential risks and darker nuances associated with CSR’s array of unintended negative effects on employee wellbeing and work-life balance.

The sinister side of CSR?

In one study of 565 Swiss employees, CSR was indeed shown to positively influence employees’ sense of identity with the organisation and their perceptions of engaging in meaningful work.  The kicker is that the increased psychological resources derived from this increased meaningfulness and organisational alignment, triggered a significantly greater motivation in employees to work harder… to the extent that employees reported that they neglected other spheres of their lives such as private relationships and health.  That is, an increase in workaholics.

While some employers may still be tempted to glorify workaholic employees, workaholism is repeatedly and significantly shown to be highly correlated with negative individual AND organisational outcomes.

The impact of workaholic leaders on employees is devastating and despite a workaholic’s excessive hours of working, their work is not associated with higher quality, productivity or success than those working more moderate hours.

Bottom line – promotion of a strong CSR agenda is indirectly but significantly associated with an increase in counterproductive levels of workaholism.

Food for thought!

Comments, thoughts?  I’d love to hear your reaction.  Please jump on our LinkedIn page where you’ll see this as a post.  Please comment and share your thoughts there!

Best wishes for now,



Too much of a good thing? On the relationship between CSR and employee work addiction”, Journal of Business Ethics, October 2020 Brieger

Understanding the etiology of workaholism: The results of the systematic review and meta-analysis”, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, August 2021, Morkevičiūtė


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