Responsibility and Accountability

„We understand: We take responsibility.“ This quote nicely resonates how corporations put forward their activities in Corporate Social Responsibility. Does this reflect our everyday experience if it comes to events with negative outcome? Who knows those rare cases when negative events were followed by an immediate reaction of actors which admitted their responsibility? Probably most of us remember those cases which are best described as long processes - taking months or years - in which actors used several rhetorical tactics in order to be less responsible.


Social Accounts are rhetorical tactics that explain past or future events and, especially, how actions of the corporations play a role in these events. We investigate how corportations communicate after negative events with account giving. 

account giving, responsibility, negative event, accountability
© Brühl and Kury (2019) (click to enlarge)

The one that is responsible is also held accountable. The picture shows responsibility episodes which reflect that actors judge and negotiate about responsibility during these episodes. First, stakeholders have to detect a negative event that violates a norm; second, stakeholders judge the responsibility of the company, one outcome of which could be to hold the company responsible for the negative event. Third, companies give accounts in

reaction to being held responsible; this in turn may lead to stakeholders revising their 

responsibility judgment, or finally, to consequences for the company (sanctions, etc.) (Brühl and Kury, 2019, p. 302).


We deploy this framework in several publications in order to investigate the effectiveness of different types of accounts on trust. In Brühl, Basel und Kury (2016a), we analyze a single case (Antenna-Gate of Apple) which tactics Steve Jobs in used in a press conference and speculate about their effectiveness on trust. Additionally, Brühl, Basel and Kury (2018) show in an experimental study why apologies are more effective than excuses and refusals to rebuild trust after an integrity based violation.

 Research Partners: Dr. Jörn Basel, Dr. Max Kury 


Brühl, Rolf, Kury, Max: Rhetorical tactics to influence responsibility judgments: account giving in banks presidents’ letters during the financial market crisis, in: International Journal of Business Communication, 56(3), pp. 299-325 (link to the article).

Brühl, Rolf, Basel, Jörn S. und Kury, Max: Communication after an integrity-based trust violation: How organizational account giving affects trust, in: European Management Journal, 36(2), 2018, S. 161 - 170 (link to the article).  

Brühl, Rolf, Basel, Jörn S., Kury, Max: Vertrauensbildung durch Kommunikation – die Rolle von Verantwortung und Rechenschaft [Trust building through communication - the role of responsibility and account giving], in: Vertrauensbasierte Führung. Devise und Forschung, hrsg. v. F. Keuper und T. Sommerlatte, Wiesbaden: Gabler, 2016a, S. 179-196 (link to the article).

Brühl, Rolf, Kury, Max: Rechenschaft und Vertrauen [Accounts and trust], in: Jahrbuch für Controlling und Rechnungswesen 2014, hrsg. v. Gerhard Seicht, LexisNexis: Wien, S. 217-239. (download)


Partner of Research Center

Our research project is part of the research center of Sustainability of ESCP Europe (Research Center on Sustainability at ESCP Europe) that deals with issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility .