The Impact of Social Identity on Organizational Change through Progressive Discipline

By Stacy Smulowitz and Paul Ziek.

Published by Change Management: An International Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Research concerning the processes of information exchange, message development and instrument choice during planned organizational change has grown exponentially over the past several years. What is missing from this literature is the notion that each stakeholder and stakeholder group can interpret a different meaning to the same communication message which consequently impacts their orientation toward the change. It is this point of individual interpretation that we choose to highlight in the current paper by looking at a case study of management’s implementation of Progressive Discipline in a large beverage distributor. To conduct this case study the authors used semi-structured interviews which provide a clear picture of the case as understood by each employee. With an examination of a real-world work problem, this paper builds a bridge between the academic and business environment. It does so by providing a simple explanation for understanding the internalization of changes within an organization. The study also extends the organizational change research to include Social Identity Theory and context as a means to explain the differences of interpretation of the same communication messages by different employees. Our intention is to equip managers with the knowledge that one’s social identity impacts how change is viewed—its success or failure. By considering that stakeholder identity plays a role in how change is perceived, communication can be designed to deliver the appropriate and effective messages. Managers armed with this information will be more prepared for organizational change.

Keywords: Organizational Change, Social Identity, Communication, Context

Change Management: An International Journal, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.37-47. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 307.448KB).

Prof. Stacy Smulowitz

Instructor, Department of Communication, The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, USA

Stacy Smulowitz, Ph.D. Candidate, ABC, is an instructor at The University of Scranton where she teaches courses in advertising. Smulowitz is completing her dissertation at Rutgers University, where her studies focus on theory and strategy for assessing and promoting excellence in organizational leadership. She also holds a master’s degree from Ithaca College in corporate communication, a bachelor’s degree from Wilkes University in organizational and interpersonal communication, and is accredited through the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Smulowitz is president of Smulowitz Communications, a strategic communication consulting firm.

Dr. Paul Ziek

Assistant Professor, Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY, USA

Paul Ziek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts at Pace University. His primary research interest is how the communication-information-media matrix shapes interaction and communication. Paul holds a B.A. from Rutgers, an M.A. from New York University, and a PhD from Rutgers.