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In thinking about identity and identification, we can easily slip into the trap of thinking the organization has an identity and that, likewise, the employee has an identity. In other words, each has one unified and integrated identity. This mode of thinking is, in fact, the “default” position in Western culture. We think of a each person as a single unit so that, metaphorically, we project this same quality onto the “super-person” which is the organization. Yet Albert and Whetten’s original thesis about organizational identity readily allowed that organizations can have multiple identities.Albert & Whetten, op cit. Communication scholars, as well as researchers in psychology and other fields, have long recognized that the same is true of individuals. Each one of us constructs our sense of self from a multitude of identities—perhaps our family, ethnicity, gender, age country of origin, region or city, religion, hobbies, clubs, alma maters, political affiliations, profession, employer, and work department. Moreover, identity is an ongoing construction that must be constantly negotiated, renegotiated, and adjusted in light of new experiences as you encounter new people and situations. (And from a postmodern perspective, the “self” is a fiction since each person is a “site” where multiple discourses compete. Thoughts and intentions are shaped and conditioned by those discourses and by the language with which to express them.)
To illustrate how people with different (and multiple) identities must mesh to accomplish work, consider this textbook. Under the auspices of a publisher, the three authors came together to perform the work. We share an interest in organizational communication and yet our identities (and their components) are very different. One author (Wrench) is a white male, a member of Generation X who hails from Texas, earned his doctorate in West Virginia, moved from Ohio to New York, has a special interest in learning processes, and identifies with his roles as department chair, teacher, scholar, author, speaker, and consultant. Another author (Punyanunt-Carter) is a woman of color and member of Generation X who also attended universities in Texas and Ohio, and now teaches at her Texas alma mater where she researches, among other interests, faither-daughter communication. The third author (Ward) is a Baby Boomer who almost exactly mirrors the average (documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) of holding 11.3 jobs through the first three decades of his career.Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012, July 25). Number of jobs held, labor market activity, and earnings growth among the youngest baby boomers: Results from a longitudinal survey summary. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/nlsoy.nr0.htm White, middle-aged, male, American, Southerner, proud of his alma maters in Virginia and South Carolina, he self-identifies as an academic, teacher, faculty member of his Texas institution, and specialist in organizational and religious communication. Yet through a dozen job changes his identity has varied: writer/editor, corporate communication director, broadcaster, freelance and, upon entering academe in midlife, graduate student, and college professor. Furthermore, two of the authors favor social-scientific research methods while the third holds to an interpretive epistemology. To write this textbook, then, we found ways of making our diversity an advantage rather than a liability.
Or consider your Organizational Communication class. Your class is analogous to an organization with a governing board (the administration), CEO (your instructor), and members (the students). Probably you have experienced how different classes have different “personalities” or, if you will, organizational identities. Somehow, the climate and culture of one class—even just the atmosphere when you walk in the door—is completely different than another class. That identity is driven by many factors: the university, the subject of the class, the instructor, and the composition of the students. And college professors know that different sections of the same course, even during the same semester, have different identities. Thus, for every class in which you are enrolled—including your Organizational Communication class—you must work through the diverse identities of your teachers, your classmates, and yourself in order to pass the course. You must find a way to work with your instructor, and you must cooperate with other students for class discussions and group projects that are integral to the work of each course.
In a very real sense, your textbook and your Organizational Communication class are microcosms of processes that occur daily in the workplace—as individuals and organizations balance the need for a shared identity with the need to accommodate a diverse identities and collectively leverage the strengths they bring to the table. That is the tension we will explore in this section.
The notion of boosting performance by encouraging a diverse workforce takes us a long way from the classical theories of management that we encountered in Chapter 3 "Classical Theories of Organizational Communication". The theories of Frederick Taylor envisioned the organization as a homogeneous “machine” whose inputs and outputs could be scientifically managed. Max Weber held that bureaucratic management according to impersonal and but fair rules was preferable to the personalized leadership that characterized nineteenth-century capitalism. And Henri Fayol advocated a military style of management based on unity of direction and command. With all these classical theories, individual identities should be left at the factory gate and a diversity of perspectives and opinions would detract from Taylor’s control, Weber’s impartiality, and Fayol’s unity. Yet as we also saw in Chapter 3 "Classical Theories of Organizational Communication", the human relations approach to organizations recognized that workers have felt needs, while human resources theories encouraged management to tap worker creativity by enlisting their participation in organizational decision-making. Systems theory likewise, as we learned in Chapter 4 "Modern Theories of Organizational Communication", acknowledges that an organization needs a diversity of resources that is sufficient to handle the complexity of its environment. Intepretive approaches suggest that an organization “is” its diversity since the organization and its culture are constituted by the communicative interactions of its various members. Postmodern and critical approaches celebrate diversity by recovering voices that have been historically marginalized in organizations.
Quite apart from theory, however, is the practical reality of an increasingly diverse workforce in the United States and many other nations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks numerous demographic traits including age, gender, race and ethnicity, disability, family and marital status, educational attainment, military veteran status, and more. Each trait can be an integral component of a person’s self-identity both in private life and on the job—and in the aggregate, the demographic mix is constantly changing. Organizations must keep abreast of these changes to find and attract the best talent; managers must stay on top of these changes to best help their employees succeed; employees must be aware of these changes to work effectively with coworkers. In 2006, a BLS report projected the composition of the U.S. labor by decade through 2050.Toossi, M. (2006, November). A new look at long-term labor force projections to 2050. Monthly Labor Review [electronic version]. Retrieved October 26, 2012, from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2006/11/art3full.pdf The projections, shown in Figure 8.8 "U.S. Labor Force Racial Distribution to 2050", Figure 8.9 "U.S. Labor Force Race and Gender Distribution to 2050", Figure 8.10 "U.S. Labor Force Ethnic Distribution to 2050", and Figure 8.11 "U.S. Labor Force Ethnic and Gender Distribution to 2050" below, suggest steady growth in the numbers of black, Asian, and Hispanic men and women as percentages of the workforce. But despite the growing numbers of workers in these categories, the agency estimates that overall growth in the U.S. labor force will slow significantly as compared the previous half-century. The Baby Boom generation is aging, while the participation rate of women in the labor force is leveling off after previous decades of rapid growth.
Figure 8.8 U.S. Labor Force Racial Distribution to 2050
*”All other” includes those classified as of multiple racial origin and the race categories of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders.
Figure 8.9 U.S. Labor Force Race and Gender Distribution to 2050
*”All other” includes those classified as of multiple racial origin and the race categories of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders.
Figure 8.10 U.S. Labor Force Ethnic Distribution to 2050
Figure 8.11 U.S. Labor Force Ethnic and Gender Distribution to 2050
Given the trend toward increasingly multicultural workplaces, organizations have solid business reasons to keep pace. Taylor Cox and Stacy Blake summarized these reasons in six arguments for embracing diversity: (1) Organizations with a reputation for welcoming diverse employees will gain a recruiting edge in a shrinking labor pool, while (2) those that struggle with integrating women and minorities will face increased costs as the labor pool steadily diversifies. Further, organizations with diverse workforces will benefit from the improved (3) creativity, (4) problem-solving and (5) managerial flexibility spurred by multiple viewpoints, even as they (6) gain greater insights for marketing products and services to an increasingly diverse public.Cox, T. H., & Blake, S. (1991). Managing cultural diversity: Implications for organizational effectiveness. Academy of Management Executive, 5(3), 45–56. Nevertheless, achieving these benefits is not easy because accustomed modes of thinking—whether in an organizational culture, or in the surrounding society—may be transmitted over generations, be deeply ingrained, and be slow to change. A sense of the challenge is suggested in Table 8.6 "Prohibited Employment Practices: EEOC" below, which lists employment practices prohibited by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and examples of violations cited by the agency.U.S. Equal Employment Opportinty Commission (n.d.). Prohibited employment policies/practices. Retrieved October 26, 2012, from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices/index.cfm
Table 8.6 Prohibited Employment Practices: EEOC
|Protected categories||“Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”|
|General principles||“The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer or other covered entity from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. The laws enforced by EEOC also prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older, if the policies or practices at issue are not based on a reasonable factor other than age.”|
|Aspect of employment||Prohibited practice||Example|
|Job advertisements||“It is illegal for an employer to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for or discourages someone from applying for a job because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“For example, a help-wanted ad that seeks ‘females’ or ‘recent college graduates’ may discourage men and people over 40 from applying and may violate the law.”|
|Recruitment||“It is also illegal for an employer to recruit new employees in a way that discriminates against them because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“For example, an employer's reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment by its mostly Hispanic work force may violate the law if the result is that almost all new hires are Hispanic.”|
|Application and hiring||“It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||For example, an employer may not refuse to give employment applications to people of a certain race.|
|“An employer may not base hiring decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”|
|“If an employer requires job applicants to take a test, the test must be necessary and related to the job and the employer may not exclude people of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, or individuals with disabilities.”|
|“In addition, the employer may not use a test that excludes applicants age 40 or older if the test is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.”|
|“If a job applicant with a disability needs an accommodation (such as a sign language interpreter) to apply for a job, the employer is required to provide the accommodation, so long as the accommodation does not cause the employer significant difficulty or expense.”|
|Job referrals||“It is illegal for an employer, employment agency or union to take into account a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about job referrals.”|
|Job assignments and promotions||“It is illegal for an employer to make decisions about job assignments and promotions based on an employee's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“For example, an employer may not give preference to employees of a certain race when making shift assignments and may not segregate employees of a particular national origin from other employees or from customers.”|
|“An employer may not base assignment and promotion decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”|
|“If an employer requires employees to take a test before making decisions about assignments or promotions, the test may not exclude people of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin, or individuals with disabilities, unless the employer can show that the test is necessary and related to the job.”|
|“In addition, the employer may not use a test that excludes employees age 40 or older if the test is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.”|
|Pay and benefits||“It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee in the payment of wages or employee benefits on the bases of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“For example, an employer many not pay Hispanic workers less than African-American workers because of their national origin, and men and women in the same workplace must be given equal pay for equal work.”|
|“In some situations, an employer may be allowed to reduce some employee benefits for older workers, but only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.”|
|Discipline and discharge||“An employer may not take into account a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about discipline or discharge.”||“For example, if two employees commit a similar offense, an employer many not discipline them differently because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”|
|“When deciding which employees will be laid off, an employer may not choose the oldest workers because of their age. Employers also may not discriminate when deciding which workers to recall after a layoff.”|
|Employment references||“It is illegal for an employer to give a negative or false employment reference (or refuse to give a reference) because of a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”|
|Reasonable accommodation and disability||“The law requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.”||“Reasonable accommodation might include, for example, providing a ramp for a wheelchair user or providing a reader or interpreter for a blind or deaf employee or applicant.”|
|“A reasonable accommodation is any change in the workplace (or in the ways things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.”|
|Reasonable accomodation and religion||“The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause difficulty or expense for the employer.”||“This means an employer may have to make reasonable adjustments at work that will allow the employee to practice his or her religion, such as allowing an employee to voluntarily swap shifts with a co-worker so that he or she can attend religious services.”|
|Training and apprenticeship programs||“It is illegal for a training or apprenticeship program to discriminate on the bases of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“For example, an employer may not deny training opportunities to African-American employees because of their race.”|
|“In some situations, an employer may be allowed to set age limits for participation in an apprenticeship program.”|
|Harassment||“It is illegal to harass an employee because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“Harassment can take the form of slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct. Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature) is also unlawful.”|
|“It is also illegal to harass someone because they have complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”||“The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”|
|“Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or if it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”||“Harassment outside of the workplace may also be illegal if there is a link with the workplace. For example, if a supervisor harasses an employee while driving the employee to a meeting.”|
|Terms and conditions of employment||“The law makes it illegal for an employer to make any employment decision because of a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”||“That means an employer may not discriminate when it comes to such things as hiring, firing, promotions, and pay. It also means an employer may not discriminate, for example, when granting breaks, approving leave, assigning work stations, or setting any other term or condition of employment—however small.”|
|Pre-employment inquiries||“As a general rule, the information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job; whereas, information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations. Employers are explicitly prohibited from making pre-employment inquiries about disability.”||“Therefore, inquiries about organizations, clubs, societies, and lodges of which an applicant may be a member or any other questions, which may indicate the applicant's race, sex, national origin, disability status, age, religion, color or ancestry if answered, should generally be avoided.”|
|“Although state and federal equal opportunity laws do not clearly forbid employers from making pre-employment inquiries that relate to, or disproportionately screen out members based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, such inquiries may be used as evidence of an employer's intent to discriminate unless the questions asked can be justified by some business purpose.”||“Similarly, employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant. If needed for identification purposes, a photograph may be obtained after an offer of employment is made and accepted.”|
|Dress code||“In general, an employer may establish a dress code which applies to all employees or employees within certain job categories. However, there are a few possible exceptions.”||“For example, a dress code that prohibits certain kinds of ethnic dress, such as traditional African or East Indian attire, but otherwise permits casual dress would treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin.”|
|“While an employer may require all workers to follow a uniform dress code even if the dress code conflicts with some workers' ethnic beliefs or practices, a dress code must not treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin.”|
|“Moreover, if the dress code conflicts with an employee's religious practices and the employee requests an accommodation, the employer must modify the dress code or permit an exception to the dress code unless doing so would result in undue hardship.”|
|“Similarly, if an employee requests an accommodation to the dress code because of his disability, the employer must modify the dress code or permit an exception to the dress code, unless doing so would result in undue hardship.”|
|Constructive discharge/ forced to resign||“Discriminatory practices under the laws EEOC enforces also include constructive discharge or forcing an employee to resign by making the work environment so intolerable a reasonable person would not be able to stay.”|
Still, the laws inforced by the EEOC can only address discrimination and not prejudice. PrejudiceThe unseen attitudes that lead to discrimination. is an unseen attitude; discriminationThe observable actions that are prompted by prejudicial attitudes. is the observable behavior driven by prejudice. Prejudicial attitudes need not consist of active malice; a prejudicial attitude can stem from ethnocentrismThe belief that one’s own culture is the most natural and is superior to others.—the belief that one’s own culture is the best or most natural—and from stereotypesGeneralizations that ascribe certain traits to all members of a social classification; e.g., older persons are forgetful, women are emotional, the differently abled are helpless, religious believers are judgmental, gay men are effeminate, or persons of a given racial or ethnic heritage are lazy, or unscrupulous, or dirty, or timid. which portray older persons as forgetful, or women as emotional, or the differently abled as helpless, or religious believers as judgmental, or gay men as effeminate, or persons of a given racial or ethnic heritage as lazy, or unscrupulous, or dirty, or timid. Though more than 100,000 individual charge filings were lodged with the EEOC in 2011, enforcement alone cannot end prejudice and its effects.U.S. Equal Employment Opportinty Commission (n.d.). EEOC charge receipts by state (includes U.S. territories) and basis for 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2012, from http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/state_11.cfm There can be, for example, the silent discrimination that limits the access of women and minorities to informal communication networks and to professional mentors, or turns them into “tokens” so that employers feel no obligation to recruit more. The real path to embracing diverse identities within today’s organizations is in the everyday business of working out relationships of mutual respect and dignity. Brenda Allen, in her study of social identities and communication, concluded with three simple recommendations: be mindful of your own biases, be proactive in setting aside those biases, and fill your communication toolbox with a repertoire of skills for effective and empatheic listening and dialogue.Allen, B. J. (2011). Difference matters: Communicating social identity. Long Grove, IL: Waveland.
We opened the chapter by pairing identity and diversity as aspects of organizational life that exist in a tension which must be balanced. This is just as true for you, as an organization member, as it is for the organization. In this concluding section we will cast the identity/diversity balance for individuals as an identification/identity balance. In other words, how do you balance your organizational identification with your personal identity—that is, your need to identify with the organizational sufficiently to be a team member and get satisfaction from you job, with the need to “be your own person” and “have a life”? Concern about work-life balanceTerm often used to describe the issues that arise as individuals attempt to balance the sometimes conflicting demands of their work and their personal lives. is not new; much was said in the postwar years as fathers went back to work and climbed the new corporate ladders, and again a generation later when the rise of two-income households put terms such as latchkey kid and supermom into the popular vocabulary. Today with the rise of the Internet and social media, many are concerned about the subtle ways that work is “colonizing” personal life as employees are increasingly pressured to answer work-related emails at home and be available 24/7 to answer phone calls, texts, and tweets from supervisors, coworkers, clients, and customers.
Since the 1990s some organizations have experimented with alternative work arrangements including flex time (flexible working hours), telecommuting or flex place (working from home a certain number of days per week), and job sharing (allowing a full-time job to be shared by two or more part-time employees). Yet the Families and Work Institute (FWI), in its 2012 National Study of Employers, found that the “culture of flexibility” had stagnated due to the economic pressures of the 2008–09 recession.Matos, K., & Galinsky, E. (2012). 2012 National Study of Employers. New York: Families and Work Institute; pg. 6. After surveying more than a thousand U.S. organizations of all sizes and occupations, FWI discovered that on the one hand, since 2005 “employers have increased their provision of options that allow employees to better manage the times and places in which they work” through flex time, flex place, and other policies. But on the other hand, “employers have reduced their provision of options that involve employees spending significant amounts of time away from full-time work” through opportunities to move between full- and part-time status and with career breaks for personal or family responsibilities. Employees thus have more options for managing their daily time but fewer options for managing their lives and careers.
Still, the availability of more flex time is a positive step. But why, then, did a 2008 FWI study find that between two-thirds and three-quarters of employee in various occupations reported “not having enough time” to spend with their spouses, partners, or children?Matos, K., & Galinsky, E. (2011). Workplace flexibility in the United States: A status report. New York: Families and Work Institute; pgs. 12–13. The same survey revealed that, even when employees have access to schedule flexibility, 70 percent use it no more than once a month and 19 percent never use it. Even to care for a sick child, employed parents took an average of only 3.6 days off per year.Ibid, pg. 5. “[H]aving access to flexibility options is one thing, but having a culture that supports their use is another. Employees can have substantial access to flexibility, but when they feel that its use is not condoned, they might as well not have access. . . . [A] culture of flexibility is as, if not more, important than simply having access to flexibility options.”Ibid, pg. 14. Since 89 percent or more of employees in all occupations surveyed reported that their supervisors are responsive to requests for time off, then “the obstacles to using flexibility likely reside with coworkers, senior leaders, clients, and with employees’ perceptions of the organizational norms.”Ibid, pg. 14.
This returns us, of course, to the issue of balancing identification and identity—how much you identify with your organization, versus how much you construct your identity from other sources and maintain that identity. In modern societies where many people spend the bulk of their waking hours at work—and where many people accept job transfers that uproot them from traditional sources of identity—striking a good balance between work and life is a challenge. In the United States, the “culture of flexibility” that organizations need to accommodate a diverse workforce has run up against the ingrained expectation that employees should, heart and soul, be “company people.” The “right” balance between work and life, between organizational identification and self-identity, is different for each person. You will need to decide what is right for you. But knowledge is power. In this chapter we have learned about the processes by which an organization forms an identity, by which it attempts to socialize employees into that identity, and by which employees acquire an organizational identification. We have learned about identity regulation, concertive control, and technologies of the body through which modern organizations “produce” employees who discipline themselves according to desired norms. With this knowledge you can look squarely at organizational processes, question assumptions that may be taken for granted as normal and natural, and make informed choices about your own participation.