Which Level of Identity is Salient?
Chapter 11 Identity Processes
(individual, collective & organizational) Dr. Kimberly Merriman
Email: Kimberly_Merriman@uml.edu Phone: 215.237.6686 Web: www.kkmerriman.com
• Our “core identity” comprises how we define ourselves, our deepest values and our feelings about our self (our self‐concept)
• Viewed broadly, our identity consists of the typical behaviors we put forth as appropriate within a given “role”
• We all hold multiple identities or “selves,” and our social context influences which self is most salient (in our “working memory”) at a given time
Levels of Identity • Individual identity: our perception of ourselves in contrast to others
• Interpersonal and Relational identity: our self‐ concept derived from relationship with another individual
• Collective and Social identity: our self‐concept derived from group membership
• Organizational identity: properties of the organization that are central, enduring and distinct from other organizations
Which Level of Identity is Salient? We all have individual, interpersonal and collective identities, but one will be more salient at any given time. • When our individual identity is activated (made salient), we care about our own welfare (self‐ interest)
• When our relational identify is activated we care about our partner
• When our collective identity is activated, we care about the group/organization
• Have members wear a common “uniform” • Facilitate member interaction • Encourage socializing and time together beyond work hours • Emphasize competition with outsiders (us vs. them) • Minimize member status differences within the group • Label or name your group • Adopt symbols, rituals, mascots, jargon, etc. that are
unique to your group • Frame your group as high in status
Organizational ID Pros/Cons • Positive: A strong organizational identity facilitates collective identity for the members of the organization!
• Negative: A strong organizational identity also creates potential risks and difficulties: – Strong organizational ID tied to the founder relies on public perceptions of founder (e.g., Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Elon Musk, Elizabeth Holmes)
– Changing the organization’s strategy is difficult if it contradicts established strong organizational ID (e.g., GoDaddy)
Over‐Identification • A strong collective identity—or when people identify deeply with their leaders or organizations—has clear organization benefits: – People are less concerned with self‐interest and more concerned with group or organization interests
– Their role in the group or organization is performed more volitionally and authentically since it is consistent with their identity
• However, over‐identification leads to undue conformance and failure to question poor decisions – E.g., cults are the epitome of over‐identification
Study Example: Activating Collective ID • Experimental study took place on online movie rating site • Researchers “manipulated” conditions to increase group
identity. Some members received a group profile page, some received individual profile pages, some received no profile page. The group profile page provided: – Group “category”: group name, icon, and statement about
group – Group homogeneity: assigned people with similar movie
preferences to the same group and listed movies the group rated highly on the group profile page
– Inter‐group competition: ranked one group against the other – Intra‐group communication: online chat only accessible to group
members versus open to all
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