Research by () define organization identity as a process formed through an ordered inter-organizational comparisons and reflections over time. Organization identity is usually portrayed as an aspect that is core, enduring, and distinctive about an organization’s character. Organizational identity was initially defined as “that which members believe to be central, enduring, and distinctive about their organization.” (Albert & Whetten, 1985). It is because of the reciprocal relationships between an organization’s image and identity that makes organization identity to be perceived as an unstable and fluid concept. Central to the most empirical and theoretical treatment of organizational identity as a view specified by () defines identity as that which is influential to an organization’s character. Scholars have predicted models of organizational identity and they consider organization’s image to be a broader concept used by members of an organization to believe what others see in the organization. () states that organizational identity represents the model by which organizational members define themselves in relation to the environment. () adds that an organization’s members shape and are shaped by organizational identity. Organizational identity is more than merely answering the question, “who are we” as an organization (Gioia & Thomas, 1996).
As a cognitive image that is owned by the organizational members, Dutton et al. (1994) finds that organizational identity is applied in screening and interpreting emotions, issues, and actions. organizational identity has been found to have a strong impact on the organizational processes (Dutton & Dukerich, 1991), hinder decision making and organizational actions (Fombrun, 1991), depoliticize issues in the organization (Gioia & Thomas, 1996) and assist the management in defining issues as prospective opportunities or threats. The social identity theory insinuate that members identify with an organization in an affective, cognitive and evaluative ways (Tajfel & Turner, 1985). To the extent which organization members identify with their organization, their attachment and commitment to the in-group cooperation may rise.
Construction of organizational Identity
Presently, organizational identity is a popular theme and especially in the management and organization studies. Organizational identity is presumed significant for understanding issues related to strategic change, and corporate image, to organization’s members commitment. According to Mead (2004), personal identity emergence as a dynamic and social process involves the combination of the aspects of the “I” and the “me”. These concepts help in raising awareness of other peoples’ attitudes and construct self-consciousness. Mead’s model form the groundwork to understand the construction of organizational identity. This argument is supported by Hatch and Schultz (2002) who argue that the construction of organizational identity is “an ongoing conversation or dance between organizational culture and organizational images.” (91). they also describe four underlying process of the construction of identity. These are; mirroring, reflecting, expressing, and impressing.
The mirroring process showcase a reflection of the image that the researchers believe to belong to the external stakeholders and emanates from a close to the originally construed image as Dutton and Dukerich (1991) finds. The presumed perceptions that others have towards the focal government can be considered as a mirror. The stakeholder’s images has a consequential impact on the members’ perspectives and consideration of their identity in conformity to that of the organization. This is the “me” process. The second phase of the “me” process is impressing. It links identity and image. Intended and un-intended messages are sent to the external environment for the purpose of impressing a specific image on others (Ginzel et al., 2004). In the construction of identity, the aspect of “I” is visualized in the processes of reflecting an expressing and showcase the processes through which organizational members are unaware (Mead, 2004). The reflection process helps in identity construction by embedding the underlying assumptions and the values of organizational culture. The organizational culture becomes a focal point that can be used by the organization to introduce external images that in the long run, can lead to the change in organizational identity construction. The expression phase complements the impression phase. The reflections in this phases are held in discourses that make it possible for organizational self-expression (Jack and Lorbiecki, 2007). Organizational members has an opportunity to “speak about themselves as an organization, not only to themselves but also to others” (Hatch and Schultz 2002). Therefore, when the question of “who are we as an organization?” are replaced with a balance between “I” and “me” processes, identity construction becomes efficient and increases the organizational performance.
Consulting Firms (Traditional Vs. Online)
The consulting firms are a key area of interest since organizational identity must co-exist alongside occupational/professional identities. () and () argue that organizational identity provide a clear focus for the identification of members in an insecure employment scenario; it can provide a groundwork for the creation of tangible ‘external’ identity to deal with the ambiguity of service offering; can present a formal means of achieving managerial control within an unpredictable work environment. These are key qualities that form a groundwork for consulting firms’ characteristics. The consultants may lack an explicitly defined service or physical product, making them exposed to doubt and questioning and being used as scapegoats (O’Shea & Madigan, 1998). Sometimes the workers’ in the consulting firms also face the ‘burden of otherness’ (Kipping & Armbruster, 2002). It becomes important for them to have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.
Organizational Identity in Consulting Firms
Consulting firms are people-oriented businesses and as far as Alvesson (2012) is concerned, employees are critical to these firms. It is important for these firms to attract, and retain qualified employees to facilitate hiring an elite identity. Also, given the complexity in the consultancy environment, with different clients and team members, it is important to ensure that identity is clearly figured out. The organizational competences are however challenged by clients and this makes self-esteem to be a key component in the consultancy industry. According to Alvesson (2012), in consultation industry, identification is challenging to achieve as a result of business environment complexity. For client satisfaction, firms in the industry has to act on behalf of the consulting firm and not on behalf of the clients’ whose interest are not aligned with the firm. Alvesson and Robertson (2006) studied the construction of elite identity and they applied Hatch and Schultz (2002) to evaluate the construction of organizational identity in British consulting firms. They argue that both “I” and “me” processes are critical to the construction of identity. Organizations depend on impression management together with mirroring as a way of the members seeking confirmation.
Organizational identity in consulting firms can be understood to be centered on four main dimensions:
1. Knowledge work—what do we know and how do we work?
2. Management and membership—How is this organization managed and how do members relate to it?
3. Personal orientation—what kinds of people are we in the context of the organization?
4. External interface—How are we seen and how do we see others?
These dimensions help in the formulation of a critical criteria that consultants use while comparing their organization with others in the industry, and at times define themselves. In relation to the knowledge identity, the concern of “what do we know?” is integrated as the core of an organization’s knowledge. It describes the level of knowledge that has been conceptualized within the organization, with all members’ skill and expertise being considered as valuable. The question of “how do we work?” help to address the way a consultancy firm delivers services to clients. Management and membership dimension emphasizes on the formal and informal structures and systems that support the service delivery to the clients, together with linking the organization to its members. The members are concerned with how the organization is managed and how they relate to the management. The rigidity of the management structure affects the ideas and motivations in consulting firms.
In the context of organizational identity construction, personal orientation dimension relate to the way in which organizational identity has or fails to have an impact on individual’s subtle elements. Despite that identities are constructed within organizations () finds that the members are highly influenced by their interactions with outside world. For instance, it is emphasized that ‘at any moment identity is the immediate result of conversation between organizational (cultural) self-expressions and mirrored stakeholder images’ (Hatch & Schultz, 2002). The concern of “how are we seen?” reflects the way members in an organization believe themselves to be presumed by other people such as the competitors, clients, and potential employees.
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