In the face of increasing pressure to comply with institutional norms, firm managers may retreat from previous commitments to comply once they realize the challenges involved. This study examines how firms respond to institutional pressures in a particular way called reversion, in which an organization's managers temporarily comply when there are no consequences but resist when it is in their interest to resist. By integrating institutional and agency theories, we model the reversion decision as a tension between institutional constituents and organizational managers. An empirical analysis of a sample of Japanese firms that scheduled annual shareholder meetings during the 2001 through 2014 period was performed. Our findings show that although organizations’ susceptibility to certain institutional pressures determines initial organizational compliance, managers whose interests diverge from those of the institutional constituents can revert their decisions, especially when they have discretion in decision making to protect their own interests. These findings highlight the temporary nature of organizational responses to institutional pressures and help us understand how organizational agency can limit institutional control over an organization's actions.
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