Identity in Organizations: Exploring Cross-Level Dynamics
INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences)
Most research on organization-based identities focuses on a single level of analysis, typically the individual, group, or organization. As a spur to more cross-level identity research, we offer speculative discussions on two issues concerning nested identities. First, regarding the processes through which identities become linked across levels, we explore how identities at one level of analysis enable and constrain identities at other levels. We argue that, for a collective identity, intrasubjective understanding (“I think”) fosters intersubjective understanding (“we think”) through interaction, which in turn fosters generic understanding—a sense of the collective that transcends individuals (“it is”). Second, regarding the content of linked identities, we suggest that identities are relatively isomorphic across levels because organizational goals require some internal coherence. However, for various intended and unintended reasons, isomorphism is often impeded across levels, and identities tend to become somewhat differentiated.