Multiple Identities in Organizations: The Effects of Diversity on Organizational Identity

By Ingo Holzinger and Rumina Dhalla.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the emergence and effects of multiple identities in organizations. Organizational identity is typically described as that which is central, enduring, and distinctive about an organization, including its core values, culture, routines, and products. As such, the identity of an organization represents a socially constructed meaning system, which is used by its members to make sense of their existence within the organization. In this paper, we argue that in organizations with diverse membership, identity may not be as stable as generally proposed. Instead diversity in terms of members’ backgrounds and interests may lead to the emergence of multiple identities on the individual and group levels of analysis that simultaneously corroborate and contend with each other. The potential tensions between different identities may lead to changes in how members understand their organization, hence changing the organizational identity over time. While the existence of multiple identities may be perceived as a threat to the organization’s identity, this paper proposes that the multiplicity of identities will have both positive and negative effects on the functioning of the organization. The paper concludes with implications of this research for theory and the management of diversity in organizations.

Keywords: Organizational Identity, Diversity in Organizations, Identification, Multiple Identities

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.43-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 569.081KB).

Dr. Ingo Holzinger

Assistant Professor, Organizational Behaviour and Industrial Relations, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Ingo Holzinger is an Assistant Professor in Organizational Behaviour at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He received his Ph.D. in Management and Human Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current research interests include dynamics of competition and collaboration in niche industries; managerial sense-making in international contexts; enabling and constraining forces of cognition and culture; and the strategic management of institutional environments. His work has been published in Advances of Strategic Management and the Academy of Management Review (forthcoming).

Rumina Dhalla

Doctoral Candidate, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rumina Dhalla is a Doctoral Candidate in the Organizational Behaviour and Industrial Relations Department at the Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada. Her current research interests include organizational identity, image and reputation and their effects on organizational strategies and strategic response to institutional pressures. Other research interests include gender and diversity with a particular interest in the experiences of women of colour in organizations.

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