Can you be too aligned with your organisation? The down side of organisational identification
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The down-side of organisational identification: Can you be too aligned with your organisation?

Organisational identification

The strength of organisational identification indicates the level to which the employees identify and agree with the goals, mission and values of the organisation they work in. Organisation identification is a key indicator of things like employee commitment to the organisation or company, loyalty, intention to leave and a host of other indicators.

Too aligned with your work?

Too aligned?



Organisational identification is good isn’t it?


Up until now it has always been assumed that the greater the organisation identification, the better. A new study looks at whether this is true and whether there is an optimum level of organisational identification.

A new study  examined 162 SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to test what might be the optimum level of organisational identification.


Organisational identity


The researchers found firstly that organisational identification stems from the feeling of connection someone has based on an organisation’s ‘history, traditions, symbols, practices and philosophy’.


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The greater the sense of connection or organisational identification the more likely the members are to promote and assist the direction in which the organisation is heading and help with its development.

A simple example is that of a national postal delivery operator whose job has been to deliver mail for several decades. Being a postman or woman has been a job in which people invest great pride and self-identity.



Strength of organisational identity


The researchers were interested in the strength of organisational identification held by employees and the effect this has on productivity and other outcomes in a range of scenarios.


When you can be too aligned with the organisation


Whilst the researchers’ findings were in line with those predicted, greater organisational identification leads to better outcomes in normal operating conditions, they also discovered that, in certain situations, having a strong organisational identification actually hinders the organisation and its development.


The problem arises “When the external environment changes and necessitates the movement of the organisation from one identity to another, organisational members find this transition difficult to undertake.”


change creates problems


For example, postal operators around the world are seeing their letter mail volumes plummet and are having to change rapidly to ensure their survival. In Royal Mail’s case, for instance, change to the organisational identity is being forced upon it by the pressures to survive the world of email and e-commerce. Where email is killing off its mail business, e-commerce is giving it an amazing opportunity. Too strong an organisational identity and the organisation would not be able to flex and change rapidly enough.  Too weak an organisational identification leads to a lack of commitment in times of change and difficulty.


What the researchers discovered is that optimal organisational identification requires that the organisation’s members are constantly, or at least periodically, reviewing both their own and the organisation’s goals, mission and values in the context of the environment they are in. This requires a level of conscious appraisal, cognitive and emotional flexibility, continual discussion and emotional resilience.



Reference – available to members


Ambivalent identification


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page