Exploring Identity and its Loss in the Workplace - Lessons from the Druze Community in Israel | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

March 16, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Saguy, T., Sobol-Sarag, D., Halabi, S., Stroebe, K., Bruneau, E., & Hasan-Aslih, S. (2020). When a sense of “we” is lost: Investigating the consequences of a lost common identity among druze in Israel. Social Psychological and Personality Science11(5), 667–675. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619884562

Background & Theory

The Arab Druze community in Israel has historically had good relations with Jewish Israelis, particularly the younger Druze due to their involvement in the Israeli Army. A new Nationality Bill blind sighted the Druze community as it was exclusionary towards non-Jews. The researchers hence studied collective identity loss in the context of the Druze community. Collective Identity Loss draws on the concept of a common in-group identity model, where it is hypothesized that intergroup bias can be reduced if group members conceive of themselves as part of an inclusive category. To study the impact of common identity loss, the authors relied on research surrounding minority exclusion.

Research Question(s)

The authors hypothesized the following:

    1. Will a sense of common identity loss predict radical forms of action for younger Druze?

Methods

The authors recruited 154 Druze participants and surveyed them on multiple measures, like “reactions to the nationality bill”, how much they felt “surprise” by the passing of the bill etc. To assess common identity loss, they developed a 3-item scale, which addressed the a) explicit distancing from the national identity, b) the loss of connections with the Jewish majority, and c) the strengthening of one’s Arab identity.

The next measure that the authors studied was their willingness to partake (1) in violent actions to protest the nationality bill (4 items: throwing stones, partaking in confrontations with the police, partaking in violent protest, and inducing anti-Jewish incitement); (2) in nonnormative, nonviolent actions (4 items: blocking roads, disturbing public events with public figures who signed the bill, shaming political figures who signed the bill, and refusing to clear protests); and (3) in normative actions (3 items: signing petitions, helping organizing protests, sharing relevant material on social media).

Results

As the authors expected, age was negatively correlated with both common identity loss and tendencies for violent action. Druze also reported feeling relatively high levels of harmony with Jews prior to the bill and indicated the passing of the bill surprised them.

The measure of violent action was low, much lower than nonnormative (nonviolent) action tendencies, and also from normative action tendencies. Younger Druze were more motivated for violent action. The association between a sense of common identity loss and violent action was strongest at the age of 18 (the age at which Druze enlist to the army) and became consistently weaker every year until the age of 27.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Program Curation- The authors advised programs that stress common connections to also focus on creating realistic expectations on part of minority group members, to avoid potential backlash, and have in place mechanisms to continue contact and dialogue between groups after the official program ends. Workplaces can hence attempt to hold bridge-building sessions regularly to ensure team cohesion, inclusivity, and resilience against exclusion or conflict, and follow up later to monitor if improving contact had any impact. This, however, must be done very carefully and with the utmost sensitivity. Contact us for tips on how to lead such programs with nuance and get desirable outcomes.
  2. Create Policies Carefully- As the authors studied the reactions of the Druze community in-depth, they could gauge a sense of the kind of support they would need to improve their relationship while wanting to engage in violent or nonnormative action. They believe in understanding the underlying need of their overt behavior- Attempt to restore common identity? To be heard? To punish? A response to humiliation? Similarly, in a workplace, there could be specific departments or groups of people who feel ostracized, and not as important a part of the organization. In competitive industries, it may be that certain employees earlier felt more important, but they later fall out on that importance, lest their team starts falling short on performance or due to changing organizational priorities. They could hence act out in multiple ways- from being passive-aggressive to skipping meetings or gossiping about other employees. Management must take their needs into account and ensure that they are not unknowingly making any new company policies that are exclusionary.
  3. Age-specific intervention- This study showed that age played a big role in the reaction of the excluded minority community. Similarly, the department or community at work who may feel excluded can have another layer of identity where the level of exclusion experienced is relatively higher or lower. This difference can be taken into account for a better-rounded, more targeted inclusion intervention. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to make your workplace more inclusive!

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

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