Identity dynamics during an organizational restructuring: a social network perspective

Lita Napitupulu, Zuzana Sasovova, Joe Labianca, Henri Dekker


Recent research recognizes that employees have nested levels of identification with both their organizations and their groups or sub-units. Organizational (group) identification, which are defined as the extent to which an individual defines his or her self in term of his or her organizational (group) membership together with the value and the emotional significance attached to the membership, is an important basis for organizational attitudes and behaviors such as job satisfaction and job performance. The role of organizational or group identification is even more salient in the context of organizational restructuring, as the success of such change efforts hinge on the extent to which employees are able to identify themselves with a newly-defined organizational (sub) unit. However, how individuals re-categorize and re-identify themselves in new groups or organizations during organizational change continues to be an area needing further investigation. Using a longitudinal research design this study aims to investigate the process of group identification change during a merger of two organizational sub-units in a university setting. In particular, we will zoom in on how members react to the merger in terms of their perception of and identification with a newly-merged group. As a merger often requires network reconfiguration, we will look at the co-evolution of individuals’ identification with their participation in knowledge sharing networks. We expect that individuals will activate new ties and prune other ties within their ego network structures, and that this will co-evolve with changes in their group identification. Furthermore, we postulate that change in group identification is associated with changes in ego network structures such as the number of ties, ego’s centrality and network composition, which in turn affects their participation in knowledge exchange during the merger. Finally, we aim to investigate the interplay between organizational and group identity in facilitating or hindering knowledge sharing in the merged group. We plan to collect three waves of data using a network survey at three month intervals (before, during, and six months after the merger). The survey will also include measures of group and organizational identity and involvement in innovative work behaviors, particularly around new programs that the newly-merged group is asked to design. The social network survey will employ a combination of roster method and free recall. In addition, we will collect data from archival records such as internal memos and organizational reports which will help us understand the organizational context.

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