Academy of Management Discoveries

CEOs Showing Humanity: Human Care Statements in Conference Calls and Stock Market Performance during Crisis

Academy of Management Discoveries

Authors: Dr. Laura Giurge

Lauren Howe, Laura M. Giurge, Alexander Wagner and Jochen Menges


Conference calls provide opportunities for CEOs to inform market participants (i.e., financial analysts and investors) about their companies’ prospects. Much research has focused on how CEOs speak about business-related topics in these calls, yet surprisingly the literature has not considered how statements that go beyond financial information affect market participants. When we explored archival data of how CEOs of publicly traded U.S.-based companies from the Russell 3000 Index spoke about COVID-19 in conference calls as the pandemic began in 2020, we noticed that about half of CEOs made human care statements that expressed a concern for people, with seemingly little direct financial relevance. However, although these statements were largely generic, vague expressions rather than clear plans, we discovered that the more such statements CEOs made, the better their companies fared on the stock market when stock prices tumbled globally. Follow-up explorations unveiled a negative association between CEO human care statements and stock volatility, meaning that market participants discounted these companies’ future earnings less. Our explorations suggest that it pays off for CEOs to go beyond mere financial information and show some humanity, with implications for downstream theorizing about CEO impression management.