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Social Identity Conflict

Organizational responses to the increasingly varied composition of the workplace have engendered a complex mix of reactions. In her review of this nascent field of research, Maxine Dalton describes recent developments in social identity theory that help explain how social identity conflict manifests itself in and affects the workplace.

Certain studies show that individuals differ widely on how much they identify with a given race, ethnic background or gender. For example, for every woman who might be delighted by a new leadership program designed specifically for women, there is another who might be offended.

Other research grapples with the multiple identities that individuals may hold in the workplace -- and the context in which one identity takes precedence over another. A social identity conflict in a large financial institute is used as an illustration, and Dalton cites work that deals with the dynamics and implications of such episodes.

According to the author, the various research streams have clear implications for managers, who must explore how changes in the organizational environment may threaten employees' sense of identity and how that, in turn, can be ameliorated. The challenge is to strike the right balance between recognizing and encouraging group affiliation and promoting linkages among groups.

This review includes a comprehensive sidebar of all referenced and relevant research.

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