Globalization, Social Identities and Employment

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Abstract

On the basis of social identity theory, we predict various outcomes of current reactions against globalization which have important implications for the management of employees. Globalization and its associated developments have added impetus to two social trends: increases in inequality and in individualism. Inequalities have increased both between and within nations, whilst individualism is increasingly apparent in social life in general, and in organizational life in particular. It is argued that individualism has led to a preference for personal identities over social identities, but that these are not always satisfying because they are often based upon consumerist values. Moreover, inequalities have resulted in feelings of injustice. Consequently certain social movements have increased in popularity. The most important of these are religious fundamentalism, nationalism and single–issue politics.

Increasing numbers of employees have at least one of these social identities central to their selves. Social identity and self–categorization theory suggest certain hypotheses about the likely implications for employment. First, to the extent that these social identities are salient for employees in the work situation, they will maintain the beliefs, values and norms associated with their identity at the expense of organizational beliefs, values or norms which are incompatible. Second, they will further the interests of their own category at the expense of other social categories of employee. Third, they will fail to differentiate between individuals within their own category, and between individuals within other categories. The implications of these hypotheses, if supported, for organizations are then explored. Finally, certain preventative strategies, also based upon social identity theory, are described.

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