Greenwashing has been recognized as deliberate communicative behavior with the purpose of gaining benefits. However, it is harmful to society (Bowen & Aragon-Correa, 2014) and does not present any competitive advantage (De Jong et al., 2018; Lyon & Montgomery, 2013): moreover, it can damage the reputation and trust of the company and start negative attitudes towards it (De Jong et al., 2018; Pizzetti et al., 2021; L. Zhang, Li, Cao, & Huang, 2018). Greenwashing presents damaging consequences for consumers, corporations and other stakeholders (De Jong et al., 2018). In spite of the potential harming effects of greenwashing (Delmas & Burbano, 2011), empirical research on its effects is still limited (De Jong et al., 2018). Most of the literature has focused on consumers or decision-making by the general public (Contreras-Pacheco et al., 2019; Nyilasy et al., 2014; Szabo & Webster, 2021), thus neglecting the effects of companies’ irresponsible behavior (Gond et al., 2017) on employees (Al-Ghazali et al., 2021). Nevertheless, calls for investigating the outcomes at the workplace, due to corporate social irresponsibility and greenwashing, have been made (Gond et al., 2017; Pizzetti et al., 2021). Additionally, very little attention has been paid to specific features and role of emotions caused by irresponsible corporate behavior (Antonetti, 2020). There are only a limited number of studies that address the relationship of greenwashing and employees, and they are focused on employee behavior (Tahir et al., 2020) and loss of confidence (Blome, Foerstl, & Schleper, 2017).
Companies are expected to engage in honest, responsible and ethical behavior (Lin-Hi & Blumberg, 2018; Park et al., 2021), as they have the moral responsibility of conducting CSR activities (Al-Ghazali et al., 2021) and doing what is right (Ha-Brookshire, 2017). If the company is perceived as being dishonest (Parguel, Benoît-Moreau, & Larceneux, 2011), stakeholders may respond to ethics violation negatively (Zachary, Connelly, Payne, & Tribble, 2021). Considering that companies are appraised in terms of character and morality (Bauman & Skitka, 2012), and morality and emotions are connected (Cameron, Lindquist, & Gray, 2015), this article is based on the assumption that there is incongruence/mismatch, between the company’s irresponsible behavior and the moral grounds of employees. As emotions are preceded by appraisals (Chapman & Anderson, 2011), we suggest that employees are likely to appraise company’s greenwashing practices through a moral lens and react with negative emotional outcomes. As MFT (Haidt & Graham, 2007) suggests, employees should perceive greenwashing as an immoral act, which harms stakeholders, there being a gap/incongruence between employees and their company. The extent to which employees identify with the firm is related to their sense of mis(match) between their own moral concerns and that of their company (Bauman & Skitka, 2012). Furthermore, and considering ATE (Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003; Moors, Ellsworth, Scherer, & Frijda, 2014), emotions are triggered and distinguished by an appraisal (i.e. evaluative judgment) of the stimulus, as a (mis)match between expectations and goals. Individuals make moral attributions based on the information available (Bauman & Skitka, 2012), and considering that employees are internal members who have access to key information, thus they are aware of greenwashing activities. Hence, this study suggests that greenwashing perceptions significantly affect employees’ present (i.e., organizational pride, negative emotions, and affective commitment) and long-term personal and work-related emotions (i.e., career satisfaction). It highlights further the gap in literature about the antecedents of career satisfaction (Al-Ghazali & Sohail, 2021; Al-Ghazali et al., 2021).
2.1. The influence of greenwashing on carreer satisfacton
Career satisfaction describes the enjoyment that one feels, driven by external and internal aspects of their career (Greenhaus, Parasuraman, & Wormley, 1990). It is the level of complete happiness one experiences concerning the duration (Al-Ghazali & Sohail, 2021) and choice of career (Singhapakdi, Lee, Sirgy, & Senasu, 2015). It includes factors such as income, growth opportunities and prospects for future advancement (Salleh, Omar, Aburumman, Mat, & Almhairat, 2020). Despite the similarities, job satisfaction must not be confused with career satisfaction, as the first is concerned with the employee’s overall affective, cognitive and evaluative reaction towards his/her current job, and the second relates to the satisfaction one feels with de accumulation of career-related experiences (Dacre Pool & Qualter, 2013). Nevertheless, job satisfaction is a surrogate for career satisfaction (Moreo, Cain, & Chang, 2020), so they are intimately related constructs (Al-Ghazali et al., 2021), individuals who experience satisfaction in their job will also be satisfied with their career (Boštjančič & Petrovčič, 2019). Briefly, career satisfaction refers to employee’s perception of the accumulation of their experiences in several jobs and their progression over time in these jobs (Al-Ghazali & Sohail, 2021) that translates into the feeling of self-fulfillment, achievement and satisfaction (Salleh et al., 2020).
Situational and contextual factors have been proven to contribute to career satisfaction (Joo & Park, 2010). Previous research suggests that corporate ethics values are linked to job satisfaction (Singhapakdi et al., 2015). Employees experience higher levels of career satisfaction when there is a closealignment between employee and company (Jung & Takeuchi, 2018). Morover, employees who are overall satisfied with the organizational context tend to be more satisfied with their career (Joo & Park, 2010). Consequently, employees who do not agree with companies’ greenwashing behavior, will not be satisfied with their organizational context, and consequently might experience lower levels of career satisfaction. Based on the above arguments, this study suggests:
H1: The perception of Corporate Greenwashing has a negative effect on the employee’s career satisfaction.
2.2. The influence of greenwashing on organizational pride
Organizational pride is closely related to employee psychological attachment and identification with their employer (Schaefer et al., 2020). It is a strong positive feeling, such as the sense of joy, meaningfulness, self-esteem, pleasure and self-respect arising from organizational membership (Helm, 2013; Pereira et al., 2021). When employees’ values match the company’s values, they generally identify themselves with such values (Li, Zhang, Wu, & Peng, 2020; Raza, Farrukh, Iqbal, Farhan, & Wu, 2021). As a result, perceived morality of the company can be seen as a relevant source of pride for the employee (Ellemers, Kingma, Van de Burgt, & Barreto, 2011). So, organizational pride results from the employee’s identification and membership (Raza et al., 2021).
Positive perceptions of fairness and social welfare activities are likely to lead employees to feeling greater identification and pride of being a member of that company (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). In addition, the company’s morality is a relevant trait that leads to identification and organizational pride (Ellemers et al., 2011). Hence, if the company acts in a socially responsible manner, employees believe that it has a conscience and moral sense (Li et al., 2020). However, if companies pursue unethical or irresponsible behavior, a similar, but opposite response should emerge. The greater the perceived incongruence, the more unlikely it is that employees will identify themselves with the company (Bauman & Skitka, 2012). The presence of corporate greenwashing may affect negatively employees as they are unwilling participants of unethical/immoral behavior (Walker & Wan, 2012). Thus, there is a clash between employees’ moral foundations and their company’s irresponsible behavior, as appraisal and moral foundation theories suggest. Hence, this article predicts that in employees who perceive their employer as immoral/unethical, there is a mismatch between the conduct of the company and the moral standards of employees, so they are not likely to experience organizational pride, thus:
H2: Corporate Greenwashing perceptions have a negative effect on the organizational pride of employees.
2.3. The influence of greenwashing on negative emotions
Negative emotions explain the trend in the negative moods and feelings that individuals experience over time and in different situations (Nikolaev, Shir, & Wiklund, 2020). These individuals are usually nervous, pessimistic, agitated, distressed and present feelings of worthlessness (i.e. a negative view of oneself) (Levin & Stokes, 1989; Watson & Clark, 1988). Negative emotions at work are frequently triggered by management acts, such as company’s policies and strategies or organizational values (Domagalski & Steelman, 2005; Kiefer, 2005), corporate transgression (Xie & Bagozzi, 2019), unfair situations or moral violations (Septianto, 2021) or lack of social responsibility (Nasab & Abakari, 2016).
Literature has acknowledged the relevant role of emotions as a response to corporate social irresponsibility (Septianto, 2021). Unethical behavior or irresponsible actions towards the environment can trigger consumer negative emotions (Antonetti, 2020; Grappi, Romani, & Bagozzi, 2013; Septianto, 2021; Xie & Bagozzi, 2019). This happens because customers are becoming more sensitive by the day to factors that negatively affect society, such as damages to the environment (Nasab & Abakari, 2016). Although these authors have focused on consumer outcomes, it is expected that greenwashing could also have similar effects on employees, as they are internal customers (Carlini, Grace, France, & Lo Iacono, 2019). Additionally, studies revealed that when there is an alignment between company’s values and that of employees, these tend to be more positive and present lower levels of work stress and job anxiety (Singhapakdi et al., 2015). Similarly, several authors demonstrated that social and ethical transgressions foster negative emotions (Grappi et al., 2013; Voliotis, Vlachos, & Epitropaki, 2016) and arise as a link between violations of individual moral standards and moral behavior (Grappi et al., 2013). Nevertheless, if there is employee-firm congruence, a positive reaction is more likely to emerge (Bryson, Atwal & Hultén, 2013). In contrast, if companies do not act in line with individuals social, legal, or moral values, such as pursuing greenwashing, ideological incompatibility occurs (Bryson, Atwal, & Hultén, 2013). This construct has been associated with high levels of negative emotions (Hashim & Kasana, 2019; Islam et al., 2020; Kucuk, 2019; Zarantonello, Romani, Grappi, & Bagozzi, 2016). This article suggests that employee appraisal of greenwashing practices causes an emotional/affective response. If employees do not agree with the company’s irresponsible or unethical behavior, ideological incompatibility arises and a negative emotional outcome should occur, thus:
H3: Corporate Greenwashing perceptions have a positive effect on the negative emotions of employees.
2.4. The influence of greenwashing on affective commitment
Employees may experience organizational commitment in three different ways: normative, continuance and affective commitment (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1991). This study focuses on affective commitment, because it was demonstrated to be the most important aspect of organizational commitment (Chun, Shin, Choi, & Kim, 2013) and the one that could affect other components in the long run (Allen & Meyer, 1990). It reflects the psychological and emotional bond that employees develop with their company, it is the feeling of being part of the family, nurturing positive feelings and caring about them (Pereira et al., 2021). It is identifying and engaging with the company, nurturing a strong emotional attachment and engagement (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Meyer & Allen, 1991; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002). An employee that is affectively committed identifies with their company’s goals, supporting it to achieve them (Allen & Meyer, 1996). This happens because there is value congruence between the employee and the company (Joo & Park, 2010; Raza et al., 2021; Singhapakdi et al., 2015).
Previous literature has shown a positive connection between CSR and ethical activities with employee attachment (Lee, Park, & Lee, 2013) and affective commitment (Azim, 2016; Joo & Park, 2010). If employees find that their employer is working in a socially responsible way, they enjoy being associated to it, leading to higher levels of commitment (Azim, 2016). Thus, ethical and responsible behavior, seen in CSR initiatives, increase employee commitment and sense of belonging (Bouraoui, Bensemmane, Ohana, & Russo, 2019). Thus, one might expect an opposite reaction when companies engage in irresponsible behavior, as greenwashing. Meaning that, where employees perceive their employer as immoral/unethical, there is a mismatch between the behavior of the company and the moral standards of the employees, so their commitment to corporate goals might decrease (Ha-Brookshire, 2017). Based on the discussion above, this article suggests that:
H4: Corporate Greenwashing perceptions have a negative effect on employee affective commitment.
2.5. The influence of organizational pride on career satisfaction
When employees realize that their values are consistent with those of their company, they feel proud of it and are more satisfied with their job (Srivastava & Madan, 2020). Previous studies have established a positive connection between the organizational pride and job satisfaction of employees (Oo, Jung, & Park, 2018; Pereira et al., 2021). Despite the fact that organizational pride is a relatively short-lived emotion, if employees stay with the same company for a certain period of time, the emotions of organizational pride can be experienced continuously (Gouthier & Rhein, 2011). Thus, job satisfaction is a rather stable emotion over time (Judge & Larsen, 2001). Consequently, we suggest that organizational pride is related to career satisfaction:
H5: Employee organizational pride has a positive effect on their career satisfaction
2.6. The influence of negative emotions on career satisfaction
Negative affect arises from worsening emotion at work (Madrid, Barros, & Vasquez, 2020), and employees with higher levels of negative affectivity tend to have lower job satisfaction (Judge & Larsen, 2001), which is a proxy for career satisfaction (Moreo et al., 2020). Employees who frequently experience negative emotions tend to focus on their own unpleasant attributes (Nikolaev et al., 2020), the world’s worst problems, the future, and the worst in other people (Judge & Larsen, 2001). They are more centered on the dark side of their lives, priming memories of displeasing and unsuccessful experiences or events in the workplace (Madrid et al., 2020). Negative emotions at work usually affect affect the employees’ on views on their skills (Madrid et al., 2020), lowering their job performance (Bouckenooghe, Raja, & Butt, 2013). Individuals that experience higher levels of negative affect appear to be dissatisfied with their surroundings, other people, and themselves, and are pessimistic about the future (Judge & Larsen, 2001). Therefore, their appraisal of their achievements and their future career advancement might be affected (Ulas & Yildirim, 2019). Based on the arguments above, this paper suggests that employees with high levels of negative emotions might have an unfavorable opinion in respect of their work and their own skills, and subsequently, their career satisfaction:
H6: Employee’s negative emotions have a negative effect on their career satisfaction
2.7. The influence of affective commitment on career satisfaction
Affective commitment is a strong emotional attachment and engagement (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Meyer & Allen, 1991; Meyer et al., 2002) that turns into strong identification and involvement with the company (Raza et al., 2021; Singhapakdi et al., 2015).
Research has demonstrated that lower levels of affective commitment might result in risky outcomes such as lower performance (Allen & Meyer, 1996), ineffective behavior, low employee engagement, reduced job satisfaction, employee procrastination or absenteeism (Kaur, Malhotra, & Sharma, 2020). If employees are affectively committed to their company, it means that they identify with the organization (Kaur et al., 2020). They are ‟willing to go the extra mile‟ for the company (Ellemers et al., 2011). They are engaged to the extent that they put extra effort into their work, acquiring more knowledge and improving their skills, consequently performing better in their jobs and developing a sense of achievement, evaluating their careers in a positive way (Ngo & Hui, 2018). Research has also demonstrated that employees who are more engaged at work are also more satisfied with their career (Boštjančič & Petrovčič, 2019). So, there is a positive association between affective commitment and career satisfaction (Joo & Park, 2010). This paper thus suggests that:
H7: Employee affective commitment has a positive effect on their career satisfaction.
2.8. The mediating role of organizational pride, negative emotions and affective commitment
This article suggests that employee appraisals of corporate greenwashing, expressing the mismatch between the moral values of employees and the irresponsible practices of the company, are expected to negatively affect career satisfaction, as stated in H1. It also suggests that greenwashing may lead to a decrease in organizational pride, as postulated in H2, a reduction in affective commitment, as stated in H4 and a growth of negative emotions, as expressed in H3. In turn, these outcomes might influence career satisfaction, as assumed in H5, H6 and H7. Therefore, one may expect organizational pride, negative emotions, and affective commitment to be mediators in the proposed model.
Support for this relationship can be found in previous literature. Companies that engage actively in CSR are recognized as responsible, distinctive and prestigious by outsiders (Oo et al., 2018). Employees who acknowledge this positive evaluation and status experience the enhancement of their self-image (Azim, 2016), higher levels of self-worth, pride of membership, commitment and job satisfaction (Oo et al., 2018). Positive perceptions of the company’s CRS practices drives employees to identify with (Al-Ghazali & Sohail, 2021), engage in and get involved with such practices, feel proud of the organization (Raza et al., 2021) and experience career satisfaction (Al-Ghazali & Sohail, 2021). Considering that greenwashing is at the opposite end of the true meaning of CSR (Contreras-Pacheco et al., 2019) the perception of unethical or immoral practices is expected to have an effect opposite to that of CRS.
Affective commitment was previously used as a mediator to look into the conection between the actions of the companies and job satisfaction (Kaur et al., 2020). Organizational pride acted as a mediator in the relationship between organizational characteristics and performance, commitment or turnover reduction (Pereira et al., 2021) and negative emotions were also used as mediator between stressors and behavior (Fida, Paciello, Barbaranelli, Tramontano, & Fontaine, 2014). In brief, this paper suggests that greenwashing affects career satisfaction directly, but also indirectly through organizational pride, negative emotions, and affective commitment. Stated formally, it implies the following:
H8: Organizational pride (a), negative emotions (b) and affective commitment (c) mediate the relationship between greenwashing and employee career satisfaction.