Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Review on Asymmetries in Workgroup and Organizational Identifications

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Review on Asymmetries in Workgroup and Organizational Identifications

Article excerpt

Identification refers to "the perception of oneness or belongingness to some human aggregate" (Ashforth & Mael, 1989, p. 21). As a root construct, identification has drawn increasing attention from researchers and managers in recent years. According to Ashforth and Mael (1989), organizations provide employees with multiple identification targets, such as the workgroup, the department, or the organization as a whole. The most basic form of employee identification is with the workgroup and the organization (van Dick, van Knippenberg, Kerschreiter, Hertel, & Wieseke, 2008). Following Ashforth and Mael, we defined organizational identification as the extent to which an employee has a sense of belongingness to the organization, and workgroup identification as the extent to which an employee has a sense of belongingness to the workgroup. (We considered employees to be members of a workgroup when they had the same supervisor.) It is necessary to distinguish between these two equally important identifications, because the distinction is meaningful to employees as they tend to distinguish between identification targets (Ashforth, Harrison, & Corley, 2008). In addition, employees attach various degrees of importance to the different identification targets: They identify more strongly with the workgroup than with the organization, as workgroup identification is more strongly related to work-related attitudes and behavior than is organizational identification (Riketta & Van Dick, 2005).

Although evidence for the distinction between workgroup and organizational identifications remains inconclusive, Vough (2012) found that differences between the identifications vary in more than just identification strength, that is, employees may view different targets of identification in different ways. Thus, it is necessary to rethink the mechanisms involved in different targets of identification, especially proximal targets, to gain a better understanding of social identification (Zhang, Chen, Chen, Liu, & Johnson, 2014). Although Vora and Kostova (2007) pointed out the difficulty, if not impossibility, of differentiating between workgroup and organizational identifications, we believe that we have made a unique research contribution by providing evidence that they are distinct constructs.

Workgroup and Organizational Identifications

As organizations provide employees with multiple group memberships, Ashforth and Mael (1989) proposed the notion of multiple identifications. In particular, as workgroup and organizational identifications are recognized as the most basic organization-based identifications (van Dick et al., 2008), previous researchers have primarily focused on their correlations with work outcomes (Riketta & Van Dick, 2005). Perhaps the most important finding of Riketta and Nienaber (2007) is that identification with a target is associated more strongly with an outcome directed at the same target. That is, workgroup identification most strongly influences outcomes toward the workgroup, and organizational identification most strongly affects outcomes toward the organization. Ullrich, Wieseke, Christ, Schulze, and van Dick (2007) called this the identity-matching principle.

However, some findings do not support the identity-matching principle. For example, in their meta-analysis Riketta and Van Dick (2005) found that workgroup identification is a better predictor of job attitudes, as it is more influential than organizational identification in this regard. In addition, Tompkins and Cheney (1985) argued that different targets of identification are likely to be compatible when associated beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and behavior are similar. However, researchers who have examined the compatibility between different targets of identification have tended to find that the utility of identification congruency is no better-and can be worse-than identification with a single target (Scott, Cornetto, Tumlin, Marlowe, & Marable, 2001). …

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