The Dynamics of Organizational Identity




Although many organizational researchers make reference to Mead’s theory of social identity, none have explored how Mead’s ideas about the relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ might be extended to identity processes at the organizational level of analysis. In this article we define organizational analogs for Mead’s ‘I’ and ‘me’ and explain how these two phases of organizational identity are related. In doing so, we bring together existing theory concerning the links between organizational identities and images, with new theory concerning how reflection embeds identity in organizational culture and how identity expresses cultural understandings through symbols. We offer a model of organizational identity dynamics built on four processes linking organizational identity to culture and image. Whereas the processes linking identity and image (mirroring and impressing) have been described in the literature before, the contribution of this article lies in articulation of the processes linking identity and culture (reflecting and expressing), and of the interaction of all four processes working dynamically together to create, maintain and change organizational identity. We discuss the implications of our model in terms of two dysfunctions of organizational identity dynamics: narcissism and loss of culture.

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Authors: Mary Jo Hatch & Majken Schultz