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Rowing without an Oar: Identity Reconstruction Following Organizational and Occupational Loss

Rowing without an Oar: Identity Reconstruction Following Organizational and Occupational Loss

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Rowing without an Oar: Identity Reconstruction Following Organizational and Occupational Loss

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  1. Rowing without an Oar:Identity Reconstruction Following Organizational and Occupational Loss Jen Tosti New York University March 30, 2007

  2. Status of Research and My Goals for Today • I welcome any and all suggestions for: • Additional literatures to which this research contributes • Other constructs that I should measure • Relevant samples beyond those that I have considered May Meaning Meeting

  3. “A Tale To Tell” I have a little tale to tell It’s called my working life My skills I soon will have to sell Shut up demanding wife!!! The job I have has paid me well I thought it was for good I don’t know what to do right now I’ve only 12 months left Painter, decorator Candlestick maker Which one will suit me best? I don’t know how to sign on I’ve always earnt a crust But moving on to pastures new Certainly seems a must… You’ve heard my little tale Of my shortened working life Well, so long Norsk Hydro I thought it was for life. – Beesley, Meltdown, 2004 May Meaning Meeting

  4. Job Loss as Identity Loss • Benefits of working (Jahoda, 1982) • Economic and psychological benefits • Among psychological benefits are individual identity and status • Work is a core domain of people’s lives (Casey, 1995; Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin & Schwartz, 1997) • One way people define themselves is in terms of their work (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Pratt, 1998) May Meaning Meeting

  5. Collective Identity at Work • Two primary collective identity referents, or groups to which the individual may form a self-defining attachment: • Organizations (Ashforth & Mael, 1989) • Occupations (Van Maanen & Barley, 1984) • What do we get from group identification? • Meet needs for assimilation and differentiation (Brewer, 1991) • Inform attitudes, values and behavior (Tajfel & Turner, 1982) • Act in line with organization’s interest (Pratt, 1998) May Meaning Meeting

  6. Loss of Collective Referents • Primary assumption of social identity theory is that referents are stable and enduring (Glynn, 1998; Somers, 1994) • Changes to modern workplace question these assumptions (Sennett, 1998, 2006; Friedman, 2005; Ciulla, 2000) • Short-term commitment by organizations • What happens when an organization or occupation goes away? • Organizational death (Harris & Sutton, 1986; Sutton, 1987) May Meaning Meeting

  7. Research Questions • When people have lost a collective social identity referent, what resources do they draw upon to reconstruct their identities? • Specifically concerned with the loss of the work organization or occupation • How do the resources utilized relate to psychological health and success in the domain of the lost referent? • Specifically well-being and career success May Meaning Meeting

  8. Identity Content • Resources – “forms of wealth…supplies (e.g., money or goods) or supports (e.g., information, status, affiliation or love) having economic, social or emotional value” (Rousseau & Ling, 2007: 374) • Recent interest in content as well as process of identity construction (McAdams, 1985; Pratt, Kaufmann & Rockmann, 2006) May Meaning Meeting

  9. Identity Construction • In developmental psychology: • Identity construction is crucial in adolescence, although a lifelong pursuit (Erikson, 1959; 1963) • In organizational behavior: • Professional identity construction (Ibarra, 1999; Pratt, Kaufmann & Rockmann, 2006) • Identity work (Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003) • Although a burgeoning topic, identity construction remains relatively unexplored May Meaning Meeting

  10. Identity Reconstruction • In clinical psychology: • Loss of a relational identity referent (e.g., spouse, child, parent) (Bagnoli, 2003; Riches & Dawson, 1996) • In social and personality psychology: • Construction of a life story creates continuity out of instability (McAdams, 1985, 1996) • Contexts: divorce (King & Raspin, 2004), career and religion change (Bauer & McAdams, 2004) • In sociology of health and illness: • Loss of a valued self (e.g., healthy person) (Yoshida, 1993; Radley, 1989) May Meaning Meeting

  11. Identity Resources • Death of significant other causes all other relationships to be reexamined (Bagnoli, 2003) • Having multiple identities to draw upon may buffer the loss of any one (Sieber, 1974; Koch & Sheppard, 2004) • Identification with extant collective referents will positively relate to SWB and career success • Occupation if organization lost • Organization if occupation lost May Meaning Meeting

  12. Identity Resources • People differ in their ability to balance “old” and “new” views of the self following the loss of a valued self (King & Raspin, 2004; Yoshida, 1993; Radley, 1989) • Possible selves are personalized representations of goals; investment in a future that is unlikely to happen is maladaptive (King & Raspin, 2004; King & Smith, 2004) • Salience of new possible self will positively relate to SWB and career success May Meaning Meeting

  13. Identity Resources • People differ in their narration of turning points as being redemptive versus contaminative (McAdams et al., 1997; McAdams et al., 2001; McAdams & Bowman, 2001) • Importance of finding positive meaning despite adverse circumstances in rebuilding identity following loss (Bagnoli, 2003; Yoshida, 1993; Affleck & Tennen, 1996; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995) • Redemptive turning points will positively relate to SWB and career success May Meaning Meeting

  14. Identity Resources • Two dominant themes tend to emerge in life stories (McAdams, 1985, 1996): • Agency = highlight power of the individual relative to all others • Communion = emphasize intimacy and connection • Emphasizing connection to other people is positively related to well-being, while agency is not related (Bauer & McAdams, 2004; McAdams et al., 2001; Riches & Dawson, 1996) • Narratives of communion will positively relate to SWB and career success May Meaning Meeting

  15. Hypothesized Model _ • Investment in the Lost Referent • Identification • Work Centrality Subjective Well-Being + + + _ • Career Success • Objective • Subjective • IDENTITY RESOURCES • Identification w/ Extant Referent • New Possible Self • Redemptive Turning Point • Communal Themes + May Meaning Meeting

  16. Proposed Approach • Study 1 • Interviews with people who have lost their organization or occupation (2 separate samples) • Purpose: gain an understanding from participants of what resources are used and in what combination; inform Study 2 (Sieber, 1973) • Study 2 • Survey of people who have lost the same organization and occupation as in Study 1 • Purpose: hypothesis testing May Meaning Meeting

  17. Sample • Former accountants for “Audit Corp” • Audit, tax and consulting firm • Ceased accounting operations in 2002 • Audit Corp is gone, but accounting remains • Former research scientists for “Tech Lab” • Industrial research laboratory • Strategic change in 2001 • 2/3 of research science group laid off • Research science is gone, but Tech Lab remains May Meaning Meeting

  18. Measures: DVs • Subjective Well-Being • Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985) • Sense of Coherence Scale (Antonovsky, 1987) • Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale(Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985) • Subjective Career Success (Gunz & Heslin, 2005) • “What is your definition of career success?” • “In general, how satisfied are you with your career thus far?” • Objective Career Success • Annual Income • Promotion Rate May Meaning Meeting

  19. Measures: IVs • Identification with the Lost Referent • Organizational/Occupational Identification Scale (Mael & Ashforth, 1992) • Overlapping Circles Identification Measure (Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000) • Work Centrality Scale (Paullay, Alliger & Stone-Romero, 1994) May Meaning Meeting

  20. Measures: Identity Resources • Identification with Extant Collective • Organizational/Occupational Identification Scale (Mael & Ashforth, 1992) • Overlapping Circles Identification Measure (Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000) • Salience of New Possible Self (King & Raspin, 2004) • Possible Self Narrative • How easy was it for you to imagine your life in this scenario? • How clear was the mental picture you imagined? • How often do you think about this possible future? May Meaning Meeting

  21. Measures: Identity Resources • Narrative of Loss of Organization/ Occupation(McAdams, 1985; McAdams et al., 2001; Bauer & McAdams, 2004) “I would like you to think back to the time in your life when you stopped working at Audit Corp/as a research scientist. It is likely that this event marked the end of one chapter in your life, and the beginning of another, as is consistent with a “turning point.” In the space below, please write a description of this time in as much detail as you can, including what happened, who was involved, what you were thinking and feeling at the time, and how (if at all) that experience changed your life?” May Meaning Meeting

  22. Measures: Identity Resources • Redemptive Turning Points (McAdams & Bowman, 2001) • Negative situation turns positive or results in a positive outcome • Examples: progress, growth, learning, recovery • Communal Themes (McAdams, 1985) • Episodes: communication, sharing, sympathy, friendship, love, touch, physical closeness • Characters: mother, spouse, teacher, mentor • Ideologies: care, responsibility May Meaning Meeting

  23. What Do I Expect to Find? • The resources people draw upon to rebuild identity partially explain differential outcomes following the loss of an organization or occupation • Subjective well-being • Subjective and objective career success • Although investment in the lost referent hurts, identity resources can help! May Meaning Meeting

  24. Theoretical Contributions • Identity Construction in the Domain of Work • Better understand the content of individual identities at work • In turn, individual identities are resources to the organization and occupation • Identity Construction Following Loss of a Collective Referent • Can be applied more broadly (e.g., fall of nations, ethnic groups, religions) • Unemployment and Job Loss • Additional lens to understand differential experience and outcomes of job loss May Meaning Meeting

  25. Limitations of Proposed Study • One-time, cross-sectional design • Does not allow us to understand process • Directionality unclear – do people choose action that is in line with their self-narrative or do they construct a narrative post-hoc based on course of action? • Asking people to recall an event that occurred several years prior • Susceptible to retrospective biases May Meaning Meeting

  26. THANK YOUAND HAPPY ROWING! May Meaning Meeting