Research Shows Value of Shared Organizational Identity to Reduce Workplace Conflict

June 2, 2021by Natalie Davis0

Summary of:

Fernández-Salinero, S., & Topa, G. (2020). Intergroup discrimination as a predictor of conflict within the same organization. The role of organizational identity. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology, and Education, 10, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.3390/ejihpe10010001

Background & Theory

This article explores how our perception of discrimination and conflict, intergroup identity, and organizational identity are all related, and how they might impact conflict in a workplace environment.

Research Questions

Fernández-Salinero and Topa, in “Intergroup discrimination as a predictor of conflict within the same organization. The role of organizational identity” (2020), seek to address the following questions:

    1. How might perception of discrimination and perception of intergroup conflict be related?
    2. What roles do intergroup identity and organizational identity play in this?

Methods

This study included a total of 466 participants, all pooled from the same public university. Their information was such: 28.8% male/62% women, with varying ages, years at the organization, types of positions, and education. The participants (focused on “administrative and services staff” vs. “teachers-researchers”) were provided a paper questionnaire that they later mailed to the researchers, of which included scales to measure the participants’ responses regarding perceived discrimination, intergroup conflict, and organizational and group identity. The data was then compiled and evaluated using statistical analysis and statistical software.

Results

The results showed that one’s perception of discrimination can lead to a perception of intergroup conflict, and intergroup identity acts as a mediator here since the perception of discrimination against one’s own group would likely be the reason for perceived intergroup conflict. Organizational identity also plays a role in all of this, acting as a moderator for the relationship above. This is likely because when viewing one’s identity strongly as part of the organization and thus a shared identity with outgroups, it can reduce the feelings of discrimination and potential intergroup conflict based on other group identities, such as staff vs. faculty, etc.

What This Means

  • In terms of this study, this shows that organizational conflict is likely to be greater when groups within the organization are formed and perceive certain groups as having better resources/being treated better/etc.
  • Working toward a shared organizational identity can help reduce this view of “us vs. them” and thus also reduce conflict amongst different teams or groups. Reduced conflict ultimately leads to better productivity and longevity.
  • In any conflict, finding ways to relate to others and checking our perceptions vs. reality can be very helpful in reducing or preventing conflict.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Coaching leaders how to encourage shared organizational identity can be one step to reduce or prevent conflict within a workplace.

For everyone: Checking our own perceptions of conflict or potential conflict can make a big difference. It’s always important to try to understand others’ perspectives and find ways to relate to them and get along.

Natalie Davis

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