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An important and frequently cited article in the literature on organizational identity explored the case of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.Dutton & Dukerich, op cit. Established in 1921, the Port Authority develops and operates transportation facilities that serve a two-state region. These include three airports (Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark), a major downtown bus terminal, a train service, various bridges, tunnels and harbor facilities, and—at the time the study was conducted in the 1980s—the World Trade Centers in Manhattan. Researchers Jane Dutton and Janet Dukerich interviewed managers and employees and found they most frequently described the Port Authority’s identity as a technically expert professional organization and not a social services agency, as ethically high-minded, as a superior provider of quality transportation services, as committed to the betterment of the region and indeed a symbol of the region, as a “fixer” with an “can-do” ethos, and as a “family” that deserved employee loyalty.
This identity was externally challenged in 1982 when the numbers of homeless persons frequenting the downtown Port Authority bus terminal increased. Improvements in the Manhattan real estate market prompted to closure of many single-occupancy hotels, putting hundreds of men on the street. Their increasing presence at the bus terminal was all the more noticeable because the Port Authority had just completed a major facelift and enlargement of the facility.
The Port Authority, which maintains a large police force, saw the homeless as a police issue and invoked New York’s anti-loitering law to evict offenders from the terminal. By 1985, however, the homeless could be found not only in the bus terminal but in the Port Authority’s flagship facilities including its three airports and the World Trade Centers. Now the homeless were not just an issue for the bus terminal, but for the entire organization. Facility managers were compelled to formally budget funds for dealing with the problem. Their focus was still on removing the homeless, but now the bus terminal managers sought out social services agencies to take them.
Several events in 1987 marked a turning point. New York City repealed its anti-loitering law; the appearance of crack cocaine in the city increased the number of homeless; and the police union, to gain leverage in a contract dispute, circulated negative stories about the Port Authority in the press. Public concerns were voiced that the Port Authority was inhumanely evicting the homeless. Recognizing that a coordinated response was needed, the Port Authority formed a centralized Homeless Project Team and funded a research project. For the organization, homelessness had now become a business problem with a moral dimension. By 1988, Port Authority leaders publicly argued that homelessness was a regional problem and funded construction of two drop-in centers, one near the bus terminal and the other near the World Trade Centers. But when municipal authorities balked at running the shelters, Port Authority personnel became increasingly resigned to—and began to feel heroic about—dealing with the homeless themselves. By the time Dutton and Dukerich ended their research in 1989, the Port Authority had come to see itself as a “quiet advocate” for the homeless—and even bolstering the economic competitiveness of the region by providing model leadership on an issue faced by transportation services in cities and regions nationwide.
According to Albert and Whetten’s original definition, organizational identity refers to features of an organization that are:
According to Hatch and Shultz, organizational identity is distinguishable from organizational culture because it is:
According to Ashforth and Mael, organizational identification is a:
According to Tompkins and Cheney, when organization members discipline themselves to conform to desired norms then the organization has achieved:
According to Alvesson and Willmott, management engages in discursive strategies to shape the processes of employees’ identity formation; these discourses are called: