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3 The organisational socialisation

Organisational socialisation is defined as the process by which a
person learns the values, norms and required behaviours which
permit him to participate as a member of the organisation.25 As
previously discussed, organisation socialisation is a key mechanism
used by organisations to embed their organisational cultures. In short,
organisational socialisation turns outsiders into fully-functioning
insiders by promoting and reinforcing the organisations core values
and beliefs. For example, at IKEA, seminars are organised to explain
the companys roots and values and where the name IKEA comes
from. To enhance involvement, trips are organised to the founders
birthplace in Sweden, where everything began.26 IKEA is proud of its
so-called Swedish culture: informality, cost consciousness and a very
humble and down-to-earth approach. This section introduces a
three-phase model of organisational socialisation and examines the
practical application of socialisation research.

A three-phase model of organisational

Ones first year in a complex organisation can be confusing. There is a
constant swirl of new faces, strange jargon, conflicting expectations
and apparently unrelated events. Some organisations treat new
members in a rather haphazard, sink-or-swim manner. More
typically, though, the socialisation process is characterised by a
sequence of identifiable steps.27
Organisational behaviour researcher, Daniel Feldman, has proposed a
three-phase model of organisational socialisation that promotes
deeper understanding of this important process. As illustrated
in Figure 12.6, the three phases are:

Anticipatory socialisation.


Change and acquisition.

Page 461Figure 12.6 A Model of Organisational Socialisation

Source: Adapted from material in D. C. Feldman, The Multiple Socialization of Organization
Members, Academy of Management Review, April 1981, pp. 30918.

Each phase has its associated perceptual and social processes.

Feldmans model also specifies behavioural and affective outcomes
that can be used to judge how well an individual has been socialised.
The entire three-phase sequence may take from a few weeks to a
year to complete, depending on individual differences and the
complexity of the situation.

Phase 1: Anticipatory socialisation. Organisational socialisation

begins before the individual actually joins the organisation.
Anticipatory socialisation information comes from many
sources. Widely circulated stories about IBM being the white shirt
company probably deter from applying those people who would
prefer to work in jeans.
All this information whether formal or informal, accurate or
inaccurate helps the individual anticipate organisational realities.
Unrealistic expectations about the nature of the work, pay and
promotions are often formulated during phase 1. Because employees
with unrealistic expectations are more likely to quit their jobs in the
future, organisations may want to use realistic job previews.

A realistic job preview (RJP) involves giving recruits a realistic idea of

what lies ahead by presenting both positive and negative aspects of
the job. RJPs may be verbal, in booklet form, audiovisual or
hands-on. Research supports the practical benefits of using RJPs. A
meta-analysis of 40 studies revealed that RJPs were related to
higher performance and to lower attrition from the recruitment
process. Results also demonstrated that RJPs lowered the initial
expectations of job applicants and led to lower turnover among those
who were hired.28

A modern trend used in many large organisations to seduce young,

recently graduated people is to organise all kinds of flashy events. At
these events, the company displays its mastery in its field, but at the
same time, potential job applicants get a glimpse of the corporate

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Phase 2: Encounter. This second phase begins once the employment

contract has been signed. Behavioural scientists warn that reality
shock, a newcomers feeling of surprise after experiencing unexpected
situations or events, can occur during the encounter phase when the
newcomer tries to make sense of unfamiliar territory.
Becoming a member of an organisation will upset the everyday order
of even the most well-informed newcomer. Matters concerning such
aspects as friendships, time, purpose, demeanour, competence and
the expectations the person holds of the immediate and distant
future are suddenly made problematic. The newcomers most
pressing task is to build a set of guidelines and interpretations to
explain and make the myriad of activities observed in the
organisation meaningful.29

During the encounter phase, the individual is challenged to resolve

any conflicts between the job and outside interests. If the hours prove
too long, for example, family duties may require the individual to
quit and find a more suitable work schedule. Also, as indicated
in Figure 12.6, role conflict stemming from competing demands of
different groups needs to be confronted and resolved (also
see Chapter 8).

Phase 3: Change and acquisition. Mastery of important tasks and

resolution of role conflict signals the beginning of this final phase of
the socialisation process. Those who do not make the transition to
phase 3 leave voluntarily or involuntarily or become isolated from
social networks within the organisation. Senior executives frequently
play a direct role in the change and acquisition phase.

Evidence about organisational socialisation

Past research suggests five practical guidelines for managing
organisational socialisation.30

Professionals should avoid a haphazard, sink-or-swim approach to

organisational socialisation because formalised socialisation tactics
positively influence new recruits. Formalised socialisation enhanced
the manner in which newcomers adjusted to their jobs over a
ten-month period and reduced role ambiguity, role conflict, stress
symptoms and intentions to quit while simultaneously increasing job
satisfaction and organisational commitment for a sample of 295
recently graduated students.31

The encounter phase of socialisation is particularly

important. Studies of newly hired accountants demonstrated that
the frequency and type of information obtained during their first six
months of employment significantly affected their job performance,
their role clarity, their understanding of the organisational culture
and the extent to which they were socially integrated.32 Managers
play a key role during the encounter phase. A study of 205 new
college graduates further revealed that their managers task- and
relationship-oriented input during the socialisation process
significantly helped them adjust to their new jobs.33 In summary,
managers need to help new recruits become integrated in the
organisational culture.

Support for stage models is mixed. Although there are different

stages of socialisation, they are not identical in order, length or
content for all people or jobs.34 Organisations are advised to use a
contingency approach towards organisational socialisation. In other
words, different techniques are appropriate for different people at
different times.

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Practical implications of organisational

The organisation can benefit by training new employees to use
proactive socialisation behaviours. A study of 154 entry-level
professionals showed that effectively using proactive socialisation
behaviours influenced the newcomers general anxiety and stress
during the first month of employment and their motivation and
anxiety six months later.35

Organisations should pay attention to the socialisation of diverse

employees. Research demonstrated that diverse employees,
particularly those with disabilities, experienced more different
socialisation activities than other newcomers. In turn, these different
experiences affected their long-term success and job satisfaction.36

Critical thinking

Do you perceive any ethical issues in the organisational socialisation

process that companies need to take into account?