Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Organizational Identification: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses of Competing Conceptualizations

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Organizational Identification: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses of Competing Conceptualizations

Article excerpt


The objective of this paper is to offer a clear view on the different conceptualizations of organizational identification and propose valid measurement solutions adapted to these conceptualizations. The theoretical analysis tries to unravel in which respects the different conceptualizations of organizational identification are distinct or similar, and which contradictions are insolvable or just apparent. The empirical part of this paper focuses on the analysis of the instruments built according to each of the presented theoretical model. Several modalities to test the content, convergent and discriminant validity of these instruments are employed to assess the fit of these instruments. Finally, measurements proposals that address the theoretical and methodological issues raised in the analyses are advanced.

KEYWORDS: organizational identification, self-categorization, affective identification, organizational commitment.

Organizational identification (OI) is a term populating the organizational studies literature ever since the 60's (March & Simon, 1958; Kelman, 1961). Yet, it was only the last two decades that have witnessed a surge in interest in the organizational identification research. In between this period, organizational identification has been one of the Cinderellas of organizational studies, kept in the shadow of Organizational Commitment. In fact, since Mowday, Steer and Porter's (1979) conceptualization of identification as a component of affective organizational commitment, these two concepts have been treated as synonyms, or the difference between them has only been of rhetorical nature rather than of true conceptual and measurement differentiation (see, for an example, Cheney's [1983] scale of Organizational Identification).

How is organizational identification defined in the field literature? A review of definitions points to the fact that by the same word are designated very different realities. The most obvious fact is its superposition with the concept of organizational commitment. For instance, Meyer and Allen (1997) define organizational commitment as an attitude or an orientation that "links the identity of the person to the organization", a process whereby the goals of the organization and those of the individual become congruent (Meyer & Allen, 1997). O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) define commitment as a psychological bond between the employee and the organization, but differentiate between three forms this bond can take: compliance, identification and internalization. They define identification as the process of "an individual accepting influence from a group (organization) in order to establish and maintain a relationship". Hence, an individual may respect a group's values without adopting them, as opposed to internalization (when influence is accepted because the induced attitudes/values are congruent with one's own) or compliance (when the are declaratively accepted in order to win a certain benefit) (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986).

A second problem is the heterogeneity of conceptualizations and measurement instruments of OI. For example, several studies have shown that different subtypes of identification (e.g., affective vs. cognitive) relate differentially to work outcomes (see Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000; van Dick, Wagner, Stellmacher, & Christ, 2004; also Ellemers, Kortekaas, & Ouwerkerk, 1999). Thus, for specific purposes, more differentiated conceptualizations of OI may prove useful.

The aim of the present paper is two-folded. On the one hand, we head for a theoretical analysis of competing organizational identification conceptualizations. The first of them (Ashforth & Mael, 1989) portrays identification as a solely cognitive process of self-categorization, and commitment as a possible consequence. The other (Ellemers, Kortekaas, & Ouwerkerk, 1999) envisions identification as a three-faceted process, comprising an affective component named commitment. …

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