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Identity in Organizations: Exploring Cross-Level Dynamics


  • Blake E. Ashforth

    () (Department of Management, W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287)

  • Kristie M. Rogers

    () (Department of Management, W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287)

  • Kevin G. Corley

    () (Department of Management, W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287)


Most research on organization-based identities focuses on a single level of analysis, typically the individual, group, or organization. As a spur to more cross-level identity research, we offer speculative discussions on two issues concerning nested identities. First, regarding the processes through which identities become linked across levels, we explore how identities at one level of analysis enable and constrain identities at other levels. We argue that, for a collective identity, intrasubjective understanding (“I think”) fosters intersubjective understanding (“we think”) through interaction, which in turn fosters generic understanding---a sense of the collective that transcends individuals (“it is”). Second, regarding the content of linked identities, we suggest that identities are relatively isomorphic across levels because organizational goals require some internal coherence. However, for various intended and unintended reasons, isomorphism is often impeded across levels, and identities tend to become somewhat differentiated.

Suggested Citation

  • Blake E. Ashforth & Kristie M. Rogers & Kevin G. Corley, 2011. "Identity in Organizations: Exploring Cross-Level Dynamics," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(5), pages 1144-1156, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:22:y:2011:i:5:p:1144-1156
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0591

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Matherne, Curtis & Waterwall, Brian & Ring, J. Kirk & Credo, Keith, 2017. "Beyond organizational identification: The legitimization and robustness of family identification in the family firm," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 170-184.
    2. Soorjith Illickal Karthikeyan & Stefan Jonsson & Filippo Carlo Wezel, 2016. "The Travails of Identity Change: Competitor Claims and Distinctiveness of British Political Parties, 1970–1992," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 106-122, February.
    3. Tammy E. Beck & Donde Ashmos Plowman, 2014. "Temporary, Emergent Interorganizational Collaboration in Unexpected Circumstances: A Study of the Columbia Space Shuttle Response Effort," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(4), pages 1234-1252, August.
    4. Mirdita N. Elstak & Mamta Bhatt & Cees B. M. Van Riel & Michael G. Pratt & Guido A. J. M. Berens, 2015. "Organizational Identification during a Merger: The Role of Self-Enhancement and Uncertainty Reduction Motives during a Major Organizational Change," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 32-62, January.
    5. Alessandro Lomi & Dean Lusher & Philippa E. Pattison & Garry Robins, 2014. "The Focused Organization of Advice Relations: A Study in Boundary Crossing," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(2), pages 438-457, April.
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    7. Sharon Koppman & Elisa Mattarelli & Amar Gupta, 2016. "Third-World “Sloggers” or Elite Global Professionals? Using Organizational Toolkits to Redefine Work Identity in Information Technology Offshore Outsourcing," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(4), pages 825-845, August.
    8. Sondos G. Abdelgawad & Shaker A. Zahra, 2020. "Family Firms’ Religious Identity and Strategic Renewal," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 163(4), pages 775-787, May.
    9. Anita Williams Woolley & Erica Fuchs, 2011. "PERSPECTIVE---Collective Intelligence in the Organization of Science," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(5), pages 1359-1367, October.
    10. Horstmann, Elaine & Blankenberg, Ann-Kathrin & Schneider, Tim, 2017. "Cooperation in public goods games: Enhancing effects of group identity and competition," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 324, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    11. Guo, Ken H., 2018. "The odyssey of becoming: Professional identity and insecurity in the Canadian accounting field," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 20-45.
    12. Patrícia Lopes Costa & Ana Margarida Graça & Pedro Marques-Quinteiro & Catarina Marques Santos & António Caetano & Ana Margarida Passos, 2013. "Multilevel Research in the Field of Organizational Behavior," SAGE Open, , vol. 3(3), pages 21582440134, August.
    13. Wielsma, Albertha J. & Brunninge, Olof, 2019. "“Who am I? Who are we?” Understanding the impact of family business identity on the development of individual and family identity in business families," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 38-48.
    14. Nadine Kammerlander & Andreas König & Melanie Richards, 2018. "Why Do Incumbents Respond Heterogeneously to Disruptive Innovations? The Interplay of Domain Identity and Role Identity," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(7), pages 1122-1165, November.
    15. Blake E. Ashforth & Kristie M. Rogers & Michael G. Pratt & Camille Pradies, 2014. "Ambivalence in Organizations: A Multilevel Approach," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(5), pages 1453-1478, October.
    16. Elisa Mattarelli & Maria Rita Tagliaventi, 2015. "How Offshore Professionals' Job Dissatisfaction Can Promote Further Offshoring: Organizational Outcomes of Job Crafting," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(5), pages 585-620, July.
    17. Daan Stam & Robert G. Lord & Daan van Knippenberg & Barbara Wisse, 2014. "An Image of Who We Might Become: Vision Communication, Possible Selves, and Vision Pursuit," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(4), pages 1172-1194, August.


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