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Putting your Eggs in One Basket: The Costs of Over-Identification with Work

Putting your Eggs in One Basket: The Costs of Over-Identification with Work

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Putting your Eggs in One Basket: The Costs of Over-Identification with Work

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  1. Putting your Eggs in One Basket: The Costs of Over-Identification with Work Naomi Rothman New York University May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  2. Over-Identification with Work “I am sometimes like a mother trying to bring the past to life again. I love what I am doing and I love to write. I just have a great deal of affect invested in bringing these people to life again, in some way. It doesn’t mean that I love my characters, necessarily, these people from the past. But I love to find out about them and re-create them or their situation. I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can’t be so identified with your work that you can’t accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help.” (Natalie Davis, Historian, from Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  3. Engagement & Identification Research • Benefits of high engagement in a task or role (Rothbard, 1991; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Quinn, working paper) • Engagement: Emotional Spillover • Flow: Sense of Control; Self consciousness disappears; Time distorted • Autotelic experience: activity is an end it itself (Quinn) • Benefits of high identification in an organization (Pratt, 2001) • May increase members’ feelings of self-worth • May increase employee compliance, reduce attrition, reduce in-group conflict, and increase behaviors congruent with the organization’s identity (Pratt, 2001) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  4. Down-side of Over-Identification at Multiple Levels • Group 1) Stereotyping 2) Degrading out-group members (Tajfel 1981, 1982) • Organizational 1) over-conformity 2) inflexibility, lack of adaptability to change & inhibition of org learning 3) increase antisocial and unethical behavior – loss of the ability to question organizational actions 4) reduction of creative potential and risk taking 5) presumptive trust and reduced sense of need for personal action 6) increased self censorship (Dukerich, Kramer & Parks, 2001; Ashforth & Mael, 1996) • Work? May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  5. Over-Identification with Work • Over-identification with work: Pulling the task or the work into the self: allowing one’s personal work identity to be enlarged such that one has “all eggs in that basket”. Thus, the implications of the task – one’s success/failure – wrapped up with implications for the self. Ex) Project is my baby • Over-identification with organization: Over-identification with the collective is associated with subsuming the personal identity to the collective identity May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  6. Multiple Occupational Identities • What are multiple occupational identities and how do they relate to being over-identified with work? • Occupational Identity: identity derived from the occupation one is involved in for work • Multiple Occupational Identities: having multiple distinct occupations that define who one is. • Occur across organizations. May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  7. General Research Questions • What are the costs of over-identifying with work? • How does having multiple occupational identities alleviate some of the costs of being over-identified with one’s work? May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  8. Q1: Costs of Over-Identification with Work? • Self Protection: Behavior • Escalation of commitment Affect • Reduced self esteem • Increased negative affect Attitude • Defensiveness to negative feedback • Inflexibility May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  9. Where is Over-Identification Manifested? • Self-Relevant Work: • Opportunity to be self-expressive • Opportunity to express a calling or passion • Opportunity to express one’s values May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  10. Self-Expressive Work • Feelings of personal expressiveness accompany activities that reflect one’s core sense of being (Waterman, 2003) • When engaging in personally expressive activities, individuals experience: a) an unusually intense involvement; b) a special fit or meshing with the activities; c) a feeling of intensely being alive; d) a feeling of competence and fulfillment; e) an impression that this is what the person was meant to do, and f) a feeling that this is who one really is.(Waterman, 2003) • Artists May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  11. Q2: Benefits of Multiple Occupational Identities • Multiple occupational identities as a buffer or tool that people use to deal with work that is over-identifying. • “Multiple Occupational Baskets” • “It’s like how a table with more legs is more stable than a table with fewer legs…identities are similar.” May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  12. Focus of this Research 1. Do individuals feel over-identified with their self-expressive work? 2. Explore what are the costs of over-identification with work? 3. How do people manage self expressive work that has the potential of being over-identifying? • Do individuals use multiple occupational identities to cope with the costs of over-identification? May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  13. Interview Study • 9 working professionals in New York (n=8) and San Francisco (n=1) • Men (44%) Women (56%) • Average Age = 31 • Marital Status: Married (1); Single (8) • Average Annual Income: $45,000 • Industries: Theater (2); Music (2); Writer (1); Photography (1) Academia (1); Law (1); Consulting (1) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  14. Sample of Convenience • Type of Employment: Independent Contractors (n=5); Traditional Employees (n=4) • Number of Occupations: • 1 Occupation (n=2) • 2 Occupations (n=5) • 3 Occupations (n=2) • Calling Orientation: All had at least one occupation they considered a “calling.” May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  15. Brief Survey • Job, Career, Calling Scale (modified from Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin & Schwartz 1997). • Identification with each Occupation: “To what degree is your involvement in each occupation important to you. That is, how much does it make you who you are?” May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  16. Self Expressive Work Occupations: • Corporate Lawyer (CALL) • Freelance Photographer (CALL) • Theater Director (CALL) & Admin Assistant (J) • Freelance Writer (CALL) & Poet (CALL) • PR Consultant (CAR) & Life Coach (CALL) • Violin Teacher (CALL) & Violin Performer (CAR) • Researcher at Columbia (CALL) & Teacher at CC (CAR) • Proof Reader Dispatcher (CAR), Actors Workshop Leader (CAR) & Actor (CALL) • Music Teacher (CAR), Music/Dance Performer (CALL), Composer (CALL) • 18 Occupations Total May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  17. Identification with Self- Expressive Work • “I never say I’m a poet, and support myself as a freelancer. I always say, I’m a freelancer and I’m a poet. Even though the poetry is infinitely more important to me, and I would like to be remembered as a poet and not as a freelance writer who dabbled in poetry. It’s not one that I would ever really want to give up…My passion is the poetry…I feel compelled to do it for deeper inner reasons than one would use to describe an occupation…what I think about…in my private moments, when I think about my identity, or who I am, or what’s most important to me, it’s clearly the poetry.” (Freelance Writer/Poet) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  18. Example of being Engulfed by Self-Expressive Work • “I did find teaching close to writing, but it seemed to interfere with it. When I stopped teaching, I found my writing improved dramatically in some ways. I was more productive I felt free-er or something. I think I was teaching creative writing, and I was spending so much time talking about poetry, reading student poetry, commenting on them, reading other poetry…and it was sort of too much. Once I stopped doing that, all of the energy around poetry could go into my work.” (Freelance Writer/Poet) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  19. Costs to Self When Self Expressive Work Goes Wrong “I know that people relate to this differently. But for me, I don’t think that I can see work as just work. Like, my work is just what I do to make money. I know that a lot of people will work jobs that they’re not fulfilled by, because they’re like, this will allow me to make money to do the things that I really want to do. For me, I’m doing it for so many hours that I cannot not be enjoying it. So, for me, I’m not as drained [this year], even though I’m working harder than I was last year. But it’s rejuvenating work, and refreshing work. I mean, I was so miserable at the public schools that even though I was only 3 days a week, I was so worn out by doing something that I wasn’t enjoying that it made everything harder.” (Violin Teacher/Performer) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  20. Coping: Detaching the Self from Work “It can’t always be about acting for me. I have to take a break…what if you’re an investment banker and all you ever talk about is investment banking. You’ve got to be able to have your own life as well as…I feel like this acting thing is something that I’m in it for. I want to do it, and I want to be really committed to it and I feel like I am really committed to it, but I’m not going to eat acting… I can’t make it everything, because it’s not. Because you know what? It might not work out. If it doesn’t…there’s more than just that. You know? Like the acting thing is a job. It’s art and it’s beautiful, but it’s a job. So, I need to be more than my job and I feel like my other jobs help me to do that…” (Dispatcher/Actor) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  21. Coping: Thinking about Something Different “It became more intense [writing the play] when I was taking the bar. Which is kind of interesting. The bar has to be everything, it’s supposed to be your life. But maybe for me, it’s easier to have another thing that I’m doing…kind of creative…I think overall it helped me with the studying, not to be over into one thing. Maybe also in the workplace, it’s one of the things I thrive around.” (Lawyer) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  22. Coping: Thinking about Something Different “This goes back to my degree as a political science person…I like to have a balance. I couldn’t only do theater, there’s no way. And I couldn’t do something that was left brain – non-creative. In college, there’s no way that I could be a theater major, because I would go insane. I like having this very non-creative major that I was studying during the day, and I liked going to do theater at night…that’s probably why I…I temped around in different jobs…but why working here…it’s interesting to me enough, because it’s business, and it’s a completely different use of my brain that I like and that balance is really important to me.” (Theater Director/Administrative Assistant) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  23. Coping: Thinking about Something Different “[Being a dispatcher] take(s) me out of that mindset, of this very focused thing where you really only talk to these other 50 people and that’s your entire little circle and it’s like high school. I felt like I needed to be removed from that…acting school is a very emotionally charged, a heightened emotional environment…all that time that we weren’t at school, if I was at home or something, I would be thinking about what had gone on that day. So, I just wanted to remove myself from that…just to have another thing to focus on if I needed to.”(Dispatcher/Actor) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  24. What do the data tell us? • The potential costs of over-identification with self-expressive work: • Exhaustion • Vulnerability 2. People manage over-identification with self expressive work by: • Detaching the self from work • Switching attention to another occupation • Having & managing multiple occupational identities May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  25. When are Multiple O. Identities Beneficial & When Harmful? • Beneficial: Multiple occupational identities may be beneficial under conditions of threat when self-expressive work: • Is not going well • When an individual has received negative feedback • And when there is threat from the environment • Detrimental: On the flip side, multiple occupational identities may be detrimental in that they have the potential to • Distract someone: pulling their time and attention away from their passion • Overall, I think they might be beneficial. They provide a structural force for self regulation in the world of work. May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  26. Multiple Identities • Self Complexity(Linville, 1987) • Self Complexity is defined as have a greater number and distinctiveness of self aspects used to describe one’s self • Buffers against stress, depression, physical symptoms following high levels of stressful events • Contingences of Self Worth (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001) • People develop contingencies they must satisfy to believe that they are a person of worth. • Individuals stake their self worth on different domains, such as competence and other’s approval or regard. • Suggested that the more contingencies a person has, the more psychological resources they may have for self-affirmation, and thus the more possibilities for maintaining self-esteem in the face of negative self-esteem relevant events May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  27. Potential Contributions & Future Research • Looks at over-identification in work, not organizations • Looks at multiple occupational identities as a coping strategy • Implications of multiple occupational identities for flexibility, resilience and creativity? May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  28. Final Quote “This breadth, this interest that overflows the limits of a given domain, is one of the most important qualities that current schooling and socialization are in danger of stamping out. If nothing else, this study should renew our determination that narrow specialization shall not prevail. It is not only bad for the soul but also reduces the likelihood of making creative contributions that will enrich the culture.” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  29. My Questions to you! • Populations or settings where this might be prevalent? • How to move forward? • Other frames? • Survey research May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  30. Work Orientation & Level of Identification with Occupation Identification with Occupation Low/Neutral High Job Orientation Career Orientation Calling Orientation Total Jobs N=18 May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  31. Possible Model • Control of Attention • Detached Self • Multiple Identities Over-Identification with Self Expressive Work X Threat Exhaustion May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  32. Doing Something Different in Second Occupation • “My freelance work, so far, I’ve been able to keep it so that it doesn’t overwhelm everything else. Teaching, even though I was always part time, is such an emotionally exhausting…it takes a lot of emotional energy and I did find that that interfered. But the freelancing doesn’t have that emotional charge attached to it.” (Freelance Writer/Poet) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  33. Interview Protocol • 1. when you meet people and they ask, “what do you do?” what is your response? • 2. If you have more than one job or occupation, is there one that you consider your main job? • 3. Why do you work in this way? • 4. How often do you find yourself applying experience/ knowledge from one to your work in the other occupation? • 5. What are the similarities and differences? • 6. Do you purposefully combine or separate your occupations? Do they conflict or complement? • 7. What are the costs & benefits of working in multiple? May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  34. Benefits of Multiple Occupations: Skill Transfer • “as a poet…you become very attuned to the rhythms and sounds and metaphoric associations of words. So whatever I write, even an email, I’m actually thinking about how the words sound…you’re paying attention to the words’ textures and sounds and colorings. That does help me in the marketing copy I write. My copy sounds nice as well as communicate what it’s supposed to communicate…as a person in the world, I’m always paying attention to how things sound” (Freelance Writer/Poet) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  35. Benefits of Multiple Occupations: Skill Transfer • “I’ve been in customer service forever…One of the things about being in customer service, about dealing with customers is that you have to be able to know how to act because you don’t necessarily always like these people all of the time. I do draw on my ability to be really comfortable with people and the ability to tell people what they want to hear and make it convincing. Because that’s what you have to be able to do when you have a client whose paying your company hundreds of thousands of dollars” (Dispatcher/Actor) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  36. Benefits of Multiple Occupations: Skill Transfer • “The coaching skills are at play at all times. One of the central skills in coaching has to do with making promises and making agreements. One of the things that I have been doing with my client at Xerox is working with him…our group falls around accountability. It’s a real problem for us. I’ve been working with him to help him make agreements and promises that are more solid. It helps him to keep the agreements. It helps us to get our work done. It helps him look better to his boss. He’s reluctant to embrace it…the coaching stuff applies across the board.” (PR Consultant, Life Coach) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  37. Benefits of Multiple Identities: Skill Transfer • “I think a lot of what happens to me at St. Peter’s and how I’m nurtured in that community, and how that shows up for me in a capacity to listen to my very negative colleagues in London from a PR perspective. To listen, and take that in, and not let that wrankle me and set me off into another direction.” (PR Consultant, Life Coach, Leader in St. Peter’s Church) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  38. Benefits of Multiple Identities: Perspective • “I feel like I get to have this different kind of input than the input that I get in my acting community where I get the same kind of input all of the time. It’s the same from my roommate, who is a dancer and she’s going to school and so I get a different kind of input from her, which is really helpful to just keep me…in perspective with how the rest of the world really works.” (Dispatcher/Actor) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05

  39. Over-Identification Research • Over-Identification: condition in which the need for distinctiveness or differentiation is very low compared to the need for inclusiveness (Dukerich, Kramer & Parkes, _____) May Meaning Meeting 5/7/05