Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Organizational Images and Member Identification

Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Organizational Images and Member Identification

Article excerpt

sustainable competitive advantage." Journal of Management, 17: 191-206.

Foote, Nelson N. 1953 "Identification as a basis for a theory of motivation." American Sociological Review, 16: 14-21.

Garbett, Thomas 1988 How to Build a Corporation's Identity and Project Its Image. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.

Gatewood, Robert D., Mary A. Gowan, and G. J. Lautenschlager 1993 "Corporate image, recruitment image, and initial job choice decisions." Members vary in how much they identify with their work organization. When they identify strongly with the organization, the attributes they use to define the organization also define them. Organizations affect their members through this identification process, as shown by the comments of a 3M salesman, quoted in Garbett (1988: 2):

I found out today that it is a lot easier being a salesman for 3M than for a little jobber no one has ever heard of. When you don't have to waste time justifying your existence or explaining why you are here, it gives you a certain amount of self-assurance. And. I discovered I came across warmer and friendlier. It made me feel good and enthusiastic to be "somebody" for a change.

This salesman attributes his new, more positive sense of self to his membership in 3M, a well-known company. What he thinks about his organization and what he suspects others think about his organization affects the way that he thinks about himself as a salesperson.

This paper explores the kind of connection that salesman had with 3M: a member's cognitive connection with his or her work organization derived from images that each member has of the organization. The first image, what the member believes is distinctive, central, and enduring about the organization, is defined as perceived organizational identity. The second image, what a member believes outsiders think about the organization, is called the construed external image (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991). Our model proposes that these two organizational images influence the cognitive connection that members create with their organization and the kinds of behaviors that follow.

When a person's self-concept contains the same attributes as those in the perceived organizational identity, we define this cognitive connection as organizational identification. Organizational identification is the degree to which a member defines him- or herself by the same attributes that he or she believes define the organization. The 3M salesman reflects his organizational identification when he describes himself as innovative and successful, just like the 3M organization. A person is strongly identified with an organization when (1) his or her identity as an organization member is more salient than alternative identities, and (2) his or her self-concept has many of the same characteristics he or she believes define the organization as a social group.

We build our arguments on the core assumption that people's sense of membership in the social group "the organization" shapes their self-concepts (Tajfel and Turner, 1985; Ashforth and Mael, 1989; Kramer, 1991). Organizational scholars have explored how a person's self-concept is shaped by membership in occupational groups (Van Maanen and Barley, 1984) and work groups (Alderfer and Smith, 1982). Here we consider how a person's self-concept is shaped by the knowledge that she or he is a member of a specific organization.

The images that members hold of their work organizations are unique to each member. A person's beliefs therefore may or may not match a collective organizational identity that represents the members' shared beliefs about what is distinctive, central, and enduring about their organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985). In addition, each member's own construal of the organization's external image may or may not match the reputation of the organization in the minds of outsiders. We focus on the relationship between a member's individual images of his or her organization as a social group and the effects of those images on the strength of organizational identification and member behavior. …

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