Role Identity in Organizations

Identity refers to the way that we answer the question Who am I. Who I am affects what I do, it affects how I perceive myself and how others perceive me. There are a lot of ways to answer that question, “Who am I?” And this study looks specifically at that question in the context of caregiving.

Identity is the understanding of oneself, both as an individual person, and as a member of social groups. When I ask myself that question, “Who am I?” I’m thinking about the distinctive characteristics that I am and that I have as a person but I also might think about the categories of people the social categories that I’m in. So the self is both personal and social at the same time.

Let’s play this out a little bit, let’s talk about an individual who is an accountant. Being an accountant has a certain meaning behind it. You go to school, you take the CPA exam and you fill this role and you say I am an accountant. But the accountant that we’re talking about works on a tax team, with three or four others who are also accountants or finance professionals and that tax team is a subgroup within the accounting department, which is comprised of a whole bunch of other financial professionals and in this particular case this accountant works for a natural gas company. So this accountant is also an employee of the natural gas company. I’d like you to think for a second, if this particular accountant happens to work for Enron in the height of the glory days, think about how these layers of identity might affect this particular person and how they perceive themselves, how others perceive him and how he might interact with different people, at different layers of the organization. That’s what personal and social identity is all about and how they sort of weave together in layers.