Department of Business Development and Technology

Unravelling Agency Relations inside the MNC: The Roles of Socialization, Goal Conflicts and Second Principals in Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationships

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  • B. Ambos
  • ,
  • Sven Kunisch
  • U. Leicht-Deobald
  • ,
  • A Schulte Steinberg
Prior research has advanced classical agency theory to account for various characteristics of headquarters (HQ)-subsidiary relations in the multinational corporation (MNC). In an attempt to contribute to this line of research, in this paper, we propose and test an agency model for HQ-subsidiary relations inside the MNC. Drawing on classical agency assumptions, we develop a baseline hypothesis that links informal controls (i.e., socialization), HQ-subsidiary goal conflicts, and the HQ’s use of formal controls (i.e., behavioral controls). We subsequently introduce an important boundary condition, which reflects subsidiaries’ internal agency relations with subsidiary CEOs as second principals. More specifically, we argue that the baseline relationship only holds under low levels of second principal power. To test our model, we employed a unique study design with three parallel surveys addressing the agents and the two principals involved in 131 agency relations within one MNC.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of World Business
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

    Research areas

  • headquarters-subsidiary relationship, agent relation, agency theory, socialization, organizational control, goal conflict, multinational corporation, principal-agent relation

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