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Carillion's strategic choices and the boardroom's strategies of persuasive appeals: ethos, logos and pathos

Fadi Alkaraan (Lincoln International Business School, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Mohamamd Albahloul (Salford Business School, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Khaled Hussainey (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Journal of Applied Accounting Research

ISSN: 0967-5426

Article publication date: 2 January 2023

37

Abstract

Purpose

Companies documents such as annual reports incorporate narratives of repetitive rhetorical strategies as effective mechanisms adopted by companies' boardrooms to promote strategic change and strategic choices. These mechanisms can be viewed as persuasive appeals to facilitate boardrooms’ discourses. Despite the contribution of previous research through narrative analysis domains, conceptualization of narrative practices remains a relatively neglected area in the extant accounting literature.

Design/methodology/approach

The analytical framework is rooted in Aristotle's three pillars of rhetorical proofs: ethos (credibility/trustworthiness), pathos (emotion/identification through cultural domains) and logos (reason/rationale) in investigating narrative extracts regarding persuasive appeals adopted by Carillion's board through annual reports that facilitate discourse regarding Carillion’s strategic choices. Further, the authors emphasis on repetitive rhetorical slogan strategies embedded in the annual reports regarding Carillion's acquisitions strategy. We viewed acquisitions narratives as rhetorical communication artefacts and analyzed the repetitive rhetoric slogans in these corporate documents.

Findings

Findings of this study show how persuasive strategies and repetitive slogans trigger the discourses of Carillion's annual reports by drawing on perspectives from upper echelon theory, impression management and communication patterns. Findings reveal that Carillion’ board strategically use repetitive rhetoric slogans to shape optimistic corporate future performance which might be different from the feasible reality. Finally, the authors argue that corporate executives are striving to construct an alternative reality stem from their initial unrealistic aspiration to lead their sector of less controlled market share. Findings of this study have theoretical and managerial implications.

Research limitations/implications

The key limitation of this study lies with the case study as the research methodology. Subjectivity remains inherent in interpreting the findings of this study. Future studies may adopt or adapt the authors’ analytical framework to examine other domains underpinning corporate reporting practices.

Practical implications

The findings of this study have practical implications for boardrooms and policymakers. Findings of this study have theoretical and managerial implications. The level of optimism has its impact on the mood of financial decision-makers, and when there is a high level of optimism, managers may consider making more investment decisions and therefore making many acquisitions. Managerial overconfidence has been widely documented in the literature. Overconfident managers systematically overestimate the probability of good outcomes (and correspondingly underestimate the probability of bad outcomes) resulting from their actions.

Social implications

Managerial overconfidence refers to overestimation of managers' own abilities and outcomes relating to actions which are under their control. Executives believed that they have ultimate control over outcomes, which leads them to underestimate the probability of failure generally. According to self-attribution bias, many people tend to excessively credit their own skills for good results and overly credit external factors for bad outcomes.

Originality/value

The study explores the repetitive rhetorical slogan strategies embedded in the annual reports regarding Carillion's acquisitions strategy. Further, the study reveals how Carillion's board engaged through the early report with discourse and repetitive slogans to maintain their legitimacy. Findings reveal that Carillion’s board strategically uses repetitive rhetoric slogans to shape optimistic corporate future performance, which might be different from the feasible reality. Finally, the authors argue that corporate executives are striving to construct an alternative reality stem from their initial unrealistic aspiration to lead their sector of less controlled market share.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful comments received from Professor Trevor Hopper (University of Essex, UK; University of Sussex, UK and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand), Professor Elaine Harris (Business School, University of Roehampton, UK), Professor Simon Lilley, University of Lincoln (UK) and participants at the Asia–Pacific Management Accounting Association (APMAA) 15th Annual Conference, Qatar.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals: The authors confirm that their research does not involve human participants and/or animals.

Informed consent: The authors confirm that or research does not involve human participants.

Citation

Alkaraan, F., Albahloul, M. and Hussainey, K. (2023), "Carillion's strategic choices and the boardroom's strategies of persuasive appeals: ethos, logos and pathos", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAAR-06-2022-0134

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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