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Organizational Socialization

management, business, organization, socilization, organizational socialization, excellent companies

Deciding which elements will characterize an organization's culture is not enough; management must pass on that culture to employees for it to matter. Socialization is the process by which culture is transmitted. To the extent that an employee is successfully socialized in the organization, she will he committed to and stay with that organization. Thus, socialization has implications for commitment and turnover.

Socialization is the process through which one is taught and learns the ropes of the organization. The process takes many forms; it may be long or slow, self-guided or elaborately staged. If we take seriously the notion that learning is continuous, whole careers may be characterized by socialization.

The corporate culture specialist Schein provides a description of organizations along three dimensions. The first is a functional dimension and describes the things an organization must do (e.g., production, marketing, and so on). The second dimension is hierarchical and refers to the distribution of rank in the organization. Schein's third dimension, inclusion, illustrates the degree to which people are at the edge of an organization or near the "center of action." This is the dimension with which socialization is concerned.

Newcomers to most hierarchical levels and functional areas in virtually all organizations inevitably remain on the edge of organizational affairs for some time. The reasons are numerous. New entrants may not be deemed trustworthy, they may not have had rime to develop the kind of front expected by others, or they may need to be tested in some way as to their abilities, motivations, or loyalty. Newcomers to be judged acceptable to learn the organization's secrets and be able to separate the "presentational rhetoric" (used to relay to outsiders what's going on inside) from the "operational rhetoric" (used to communicate internally). Socialization is at once the mechanism by which newcomers are judged acceptable and the process by which they are taught. At Hamburger University, new employees are trained and socialized to carry the corporate philosophy back to their local franchises and to pass it on to their fellow employees. Each McDonald's employee is therefore privy to the secrets, stories, and Krocisms that are a part of the culture of the firm.

Because socialization is an ongoing process, it has a feedback loop. As newcomers are socialized, the socializer monitors the degree to which they fit the organization. Where fit is good, they are given more socialization. Where fit is too minimal—where the newcomer shows potential signs of deviance or at least nonacceptance of the corporate culture—the newcomer is either eliminated or given less of the secret information. Businesses want "team players."

Socialization takes place on two dimensions. All roles are bundles of tasks that include both content characteristics (what people should do) and process characteristics (how they should do it).
Published: 2007-04-22
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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