Successor Selection in Family Businesses: a Signaling Approach

Schell, Sabrina; Fröhlich, Julia Katharina; Hack, Andreas; Moog, P. (January 2015). Successor Selection in Family Businesses: a Signaling Approach. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2015(1), p. 14109. New York: Academy of Management 10.5465/AMBPP.2015.14109abstract

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Signaling theory has been widely used to explain phenomena in personnel selection processes. The present study adds to this perspective on personnel selection by applying signaling theory to personnel selection processes in family firms, focusing on the selection of internal successors. We investigate if and how signaling takes place in these processes. We apply a multiple case study approach using interview data from twenty German family firms. We find that signaling does take place in these processes and build propositions related to the signals sent, the signaling frame, and the signaling game. We find that predecessor and potential successors exchange signals over a long period of time to reduce information asymmetries and legitimate the selection of a successor. Moreover, we show that signals are sent in the family context as well as in business context and change over time. We identify hard to fake and costly signals and discuss how these signals and the signaling game influence the internal successor selection process. We further discuss implications and limitations of the present study.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Organization and Human Resource Management > Human Resource Management

UniBE Contributor:

Schell, Sabrina; de Groote, Julia Katharina and Hack, Andreas


600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations




Academy of Management




Nicole Oehrli

Date Deposited:

25 Jun 2018 17:01

Last Modified:

04 Sep 2018 11:35

Publisher DOI:



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