Leadership Practices and Organizational Identification after the Merger of Four Organizations

By Bennington, Ashley J. | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, January 2005 | Go to article overview
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Leadership Practices and Organizational Identification after the Merger of Four Organizations

Bennington, Ashley J., Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


Evidence indicates that a person who is self-identified with an organization will likely behave in the best interest of the organization. The first goal of this study was to learn if members' perceptions of leadership communication practices throughout the organization were related to the strength of members' organizational identification. Analysis of survey results revealed a significant relationship between leadership communication practices and organizational identification, suggesting that specific leadership practices are related to members' organizational identification.

The second goal was to see if there was anything in the results of the survey that would shed light on the continued, non-specific discontent of one of the groups included in the merger. The results show a lack of identification with the merged organization from this group. Suggestions for further study and future directions for research are offered.


Studies indicate that the stronger an individual's sense of identification with an organization, the greater likelihood the individual will behave in ways that represent the best interests of the organization (Tompkins & Cheney, 1985; Dutton, Dukerich, & Harquail, 1994). This concept is organizational identification (OID), the social and psychological processes whereby members of an organization develop and maintain an attachment to an organization. Johnson, Johnson, and Heimberg (1999) define OID "as a process of internal and external persuasion by which the interests of an individual merge with the interests of an organization, resulting in the creation of identifications based on those interests" (p.159).

Organizational cultures are created and maintained through socialization, an "active process by which the organization through its layers of management teaches the various rules of behavior and the assumptions that lie behind them" (Schein, 1992, p. 229). Cheney (1983) describes various strategies used to induce employees to embrace the values and goals of the organization in order to foster individuals' identification with an employing company. As Scott (1997) explains, "It is not difficult to understand why most organizations today want their members to commit to the values and goals of the organization" (p. 494).

Alvesson and Willmott (2002) explain that managers practice identity regulation using a variety of rhetorical strategies. However, the examination of management strategies does not provide direct links between specific management behaviors and members' organizational identification. Learning the value and goals and the unspoken and spoken rules of the organization is not enough to generate organizational identification; those values, goals, and rules must become a part of the member's self-concept, which leads to the first research question.

RQ1: Are members' perceptions and observations of the leadership practices in the organization related to members' degree of organizational identification.


An extension of the framework developed by Empson (2004) for the analysis of organizational identification and organizational change serves this study. Empson's framework emphasizes the top-down process of organizational identity change in a corporate acquisition. She refers to the management goal of a new, more prestigious identity as the "aspirational organizational image."

The process of change is similar in this study of a merger of four organizations into one new organization. The notion of aspirational organizational image can be seen in the leadership goal for the merged organization: a continuum of service. The new organization would provide one-stop service to clients who were previously required to register and complete the intake process for four different service organizations.

Empson (2004) describes the evolving organizational identity of the newly formed organization as an identity that is challenged by employees' professional identities for incorporation into employees' self-concepts.

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