Purpose of Study • To examine the practices and processes of creating members’ organizational identity. • How success and failures of these practices lead to various identification types….positive, negative, or ambivalent?
Methods • Data Collection: • Semi-over participant observation • Interviews • Previous research
Corporate Culture • necessity for strong “corporate culture” in modern businesses to help act as a control mechanism • A way to manage their workforce without the usual means of daily supervision and traditional deference cues
“People say that we brainwash people. That’s true. We are talking about brainwashing – to help make you all more positive people!” -Amway speaker
How does Amway promote its company values and goals? • Dream building • Helping distributors to set personal and sales goals • Positive programming • Helping distributors surround themselves with uplifting and supportive people
Sensebreaking • Disrupting or questioning an individual’s sense of self to create a ‘meaning’ void that must be filled • This is done with the Amway practice of dream building
Dream Building • New distributors are asked to decide what their dream is and why they are doing this • Material wealth • Freedom • Family • Helping
By customizing a dream scenario for each new distributor they create a sense of choice, familiarity, and emotion. • This causes distributors to be very enthusiastic and excited about their work, and is known as “the burn”, “getting the fever”, or “getting the bug”.
Building a New Identity • Linking One’s Sense of Self to Possessions: • Possessions serve as extensions of one’s self-concept • Dreams represent the things that one wants to achieve or have in life • Creating Motivational Drives for Meaning: • Get out of your comfort zone – “what you currently have is not good enough… you need to change to achieve your dreams”
The Continuous Dream • Perpetuating the motivational drive for meaning • “When a dream comes true, always replace it with a bigger dream” • Constant state of seekership – sense of identity-related discontentment • dreams represent their ideal selves and their current dissatisfactions
Positive Programming • Establish relationships that are supportive and nourishing – avoid those that are harmful • 3 Interrelated Steps: • Establishing a relationship with a mentor • Creating relationship barriers via revaluing • Enacting relationship barriers
Relationship with Mentor • Find a mentor who will help you become more positive • Mentors provide economic and emotional support • “duplication” – blindly obey the advice of upline members • “help distributors understand who they are and who they should be in organizational terms”
Relationship Barriers • Mentors help insulate members from the negative opinions of non-members • Create barriers - compare ideal Amway relationships with other relationships • “Given that both money and love characterize distributor relationships, all other relationships are compared with that standard – and found wanting”
Relationship Barriers • “Friends who do not join or buy products from a distributor are seen as not being ‘true friends’ because they are not supportive of one’s business” • “Avoid spending time with friends and family who do not support your business”
Relationship Barriers • Encapsulation – process where group members are kept separate from non-members • Social: creation of strong in-group bonds while structuring daily life to avoid meeting outsiders • Ideological: an organization’s belief system buffers a member from external threats or attacks – avoid contact with non-supporters
Perpetuating Relationship Barriers • “Distributors were often encouraged to try to sponsor family members and friends first before attempting to sponsor strangers. This allowed them to learn firsthand whether family and friends really loved them and wanted to support them economically”
Perpetuating Relationship Barriers • Distributors try to avoid non-members because of encapsulation • Family and friends (non-members) try to avoid distributors because they see them as taking advantage of existing relationships for economic gain
Perpetuating Relationship Barriers • If family and friends join, it provides support for the upline distributor • If they don’t, it also supports the upline distributor’s claim that not all relationships will fit the ‘relationship standard’ • Any action that non-members take can strengthen members’ beliefs that Amway relationships are better
Positive Identification • Successful sensebreaking (dream building) – distributors were dissatisfied with who they were. • Successful sensegiving (positive programming) – distributors worked with upline mentors to resolve their discontent • Need for sensemaking was therefore, triggered and fulfilled by Amway.
Nonexistent/Broken Identification • sensebreaking fails -members likely to deidentify: stop feeling uncomfortable with their current lives and no longer wish to “pursue their dreams” • not motivated to seek out advise from upline distributors, and they didn’t want to abandon their current “inadequate” identities
Disidentification • When sensebreaking succeeded, but sensegiving failed. • Individuals either came to disidentify with Amway or remained ambivalently attached to it. • “Members maintain a sense of self-distinctiveness through perceptions and feelings of disconnection with an organization” • Anti-Amway, rather than simply severing their connection.
Ambivalent IdentificationBoth sensebreaking and sensegiving were successful • Need to achieve dreams and maintain close ties with upline members creates positive identification • Do not cut themselves off from their non-member friends • Anti Amway advice from non-members creates negative identification
Managing Identification • If members are not seeking, then they will either fail to identify, or will ultimately deidentify with the organization. • Alternative ways to induce seekership; • Identity mortification • Hazing • Public confessions of unworthiness • Selecting people who are more likely to “fit” the organization
Conclusions • The process of identification is dynamic • Dreams evolve from lifestyle dreams to ones that are more abstract and far-reaching • Nature of organizations are changing: • Spans of control are broadening – decreasing managerial control over workers • Changing psychological contracts – loyalty is decreasing because of lack of job security
Conclusion • Organizations need to weigh the benefits and costs of managing identification • Although strong, positive identifications may facilitate organizational functioning, one must be careful about the downside of such identification (lack of flexibility, distrust and paranoia, overdependence, and over conformity)