Organizational Behavior - Students


Chapter Resources: Guide to the Text

Chapter 6


A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. Features the assignment of a new employee to a veteran employee. The veteran or mentor shows the new employee how to do the technical parts of the job and the nature of social relationships in the organization. Also referred to as mentoring.

boundary transitions

A person's movement into and within an organization; e.g., joining an organization; has three dimensions: functional, hierarchical, and inclusionary.

change: metamorphosis

The final stage of the socialization process in which the new employee begins to feel comfortable in her new role.


The second of three steps in the process of creating a new self-image in a new employee; changing to a new self-image that has the values and behaviors the organization wants.

choice: anticipatory socialization

The first stage of the socialization process; occurs before the person joins an organization or takes a new position in it; builds expectations and prepares the person for the new situation. Includes the socialization processes of recruitment, internships, and the use of screening and selection devices.

company recruiter

A socialization process during the anticipatory stage of socialization. A person who represents a company that is trying to attract potential new employees; often comes to a college or university campus to interview students.

content innovation

A response in the metamorphosis stage of the socialization process; the new employee changes or improves the knowledge base and process characteristics of the role.

culture shock

A psychological and physiological disorientation caused by large differences between a home country culture and a foreign country culture.

custodial response

A possible result in the metamorphosis stage of the socialization process; the new employee accepts the new role and conforms to its requirements.

debasement experiences

A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. Extremely easy or extremely difficult tasks during the early employment period; can cause a person to question his or her self-image, making the person ready for change by the organization. Also referred to as upending experiences.

entry/encounter stage

The second stage of socialization; the new employee joins the organization and begins to learn its culture, acquires a new self-image, learns the norms of her immediate workgroup, and learns her duties and responsibilities. Includes the socialization processes of indoctrination programs, training programs, and debasement experiences.


A person going to an assignment outside the home country; related to culture shock.

expatriate adjustment

Response of a person going to an assignment outside the home country; often associated with failure to adapt to the foreign assignment.


A person's beliefs about becoming an organizational member; develop during the choice: anticipatory socialization stage.

focal person

Person in a role episode who receives the role behavior defined by a role sender. Enacts the behavior according to the focal person's perception of it. See also received role.


A dimension of a boundary transition; emphasizes the development of skills and abilities for doing a task.


A dimension of a boundary transition; moving upward in the organization into a position of more authority. Features inward movement. See also inclusionary.


A dimension of a boundary transition; works together with the functional and hierarchical dimensions. Emphasizes inward movement into the heart of the organization's culture.

individual differences

Personal characteristics that prevent uniform reactions to socialization experiences; include needs, skills, abilities, self-efficacy beliefs, perception processes, and attribution processes.

indoctrination programs

A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. Such programs teach the organization's formal rules and procedures. Organizations use such programs when they view rules and procedures as pivotal role behavior.


A socialization process during the anticipatory stage of socialization; positions with a company that are usually temporary. Can help a person develop realistic expectations about future employment with that company.


A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. See also apprenticeship.

new self-image

A goal of the entry/encounter stage of socialization; achieved by unfreezing a new employee's old self-image, changing to a new self-image, and refreezing the new self-image in place.

organizational socialization

The process by which people learn the content of an organization's culture.

peripheral role behaviors

Behaviors that are neither necessary nor desirable for membership in an organization.

pivotal role behaviors

Behaviors an individual must accept to join and remain a member of an organization.

realistic expectations

A balanced view of what to expect from an organization based on both its positive and its negative qualities; can be created through a realistic job preview for new employees.

realistic job preview

A balanced description of the characteristics of a job and organization that includes sources of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction; given to potential employees.

rebellious response

A possible response to socialization in which the process fails; the new employee rejects all aspects of the role and leaves the organization or is terminated.

received role

A focal person's perception of the pivotal and relevant role behaviors in a sent role; occurs in a role episode.

recruitment advertising

A socialization process during the anticipatory stage of socialization. Company advertising for its job openings.


The last step in the process of creating a new self-image in a new employee. The new employee has acquired the norms, values, and required behaviors that the organization considers important.

relevant role behaviors

Behaviors that an organization considers desirable and good, but that are not essential for membership.


A person returning from an assignment outside the home country; related to culture shock.

repatriate adjustment

Response of a person returning from an assignment outside the home country; can have difficulty adjusting to the home country after a long foreign assignment; related to culture shock.


A set of activities, duties, responsibilities, and required behaviors that the organization wants an individual to acquire.

role episode

A means of communicating pivotal and relevant role behaviors. A role sender communicates information about a role behavior to a focal person, who then enacts the role behavior as he perceives it; the role sender perceives the behavior and responds with reinforcement or sanctions.

role innovation

A response to socialization in which the new employee rejects most aspects of the role and redefines it; the organization accepts the innovation.

role sender

Person or persons who define a focal person's role during a role episode.

screening and selection devices

A socialization process during the anticipatory stage of socialization. Includes written tests, oral interviews, and job simulations. Can improve the fit between the individual and the organization.

self-efficacy beliefs

Associated with different responses to the socialization process. People with low self-efficacy adopt a custodial response. People high in self-efficacy adopt innovative responses.

sent role

The pivotal and relevant role behaviors defined by a role sender; occurs in a role episode.

socialization processes

The methods organizations use to shape the values and behaviors they want their members to have.

socialization versus individualization

The interplay between the organization's efforts to induce members to conform to its values and the members' efforts to preserve their individuality.

training programs

A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. Used to develop skills that an organization views as important to a job; can also convey the values and norms of the organization.


The first of three steps in the process of creating a new self-image in a new employee. An organization wants a new employee to discard some or all aspects of the person's old self-image.

upending experiences

A socialization process during the entry/encounter stage of socialization. See debasement experiences.

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Chapter Overview

Chapter 6 describes organizational socialization and is closely linked to Chapter 4's description of organizational culture. The chapter opens with a discussion of roles, role behavior, and how role episodes define a person's expected behavior in an organization. It includes a discussion of the boundary transitions people experience as they move through an organization and career. Socialization is presented as a series of stages, each of which has its own socialization processes and results.

This chapter's purpose is to inform the reader of what to expect when first considering an organization as an employer and the dynamics of the socialization process over time. The chapter also describes some limited aspects of careers, because different aspects of socialization are experienced as one's career unfolds. The chapter pursues the topics from an individual perspective (“What will happen to me in this process?”) and that of a manager (“What do I do with this process?”) trying to manage an effective socialization process.

Learning Goals

After reading this chapter, you should be able to

  • Explain organizational socialization as a process that communicates an organization's culture.
  • Distinguish among roles, role behaviors, and boundary transitions.
  • Discuss role episodes and their importance in organizational socialization.
  • Describe each boundary transition and its role in the socialization process.
  • Explain the stages of organizational socialization and how they repeat during a work career.
  • Discuss individual differences in organizational socialization.
  • Compare the socialization issues in expatriate and repatriate adjustment.
  • Analyze the ethical issues in organizational socialization.

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Chapter Outline
  1. Socialization: a powerful process for shaping human behavior
  2. The process by which people adjust to new jobs, new organizations, and new groups of people
    1. Learn the right values, attitudes, and role behaviors
    2. Develop work skills and abilities
    3. Adjust to the norms and values of the immediate workgroup
    4. Learn about an organization's culture
    5. Question of individual-organization fit
Roles and Role Behavior
  1. Role: a collection of repeated behaviors of an organizational position
  2. Role behavior
    1. Pivotal: behaviors a person must accept to remain a member of the organization
    2. Relevant: behaviors the organization considers desirable and good, but not essential to membership
    3. Peripheral: behaviors that are neither necessary nor desirable, but allowed by an organization
Role Episodes
  1. Socialization process involves a series of role episodes
  2. A role episode
    1. Communicates pivotal and relevant role behavior
    2. Role sender and sent role
    3. Focal person and received role
    4. Reactions of role sender and focal person in a role episode
Boundary Transitions
  1. Socialization process happens at boundary transitions
    1. Functional
    2. Hierarchical
    3. Inclusionary
  2. Process repeats many times as a person's career unfolds and as person crosses different boundaries
  3. Early period following a boundary transition is highly important from both the individual's and the organization's perspective
  4. Highly salient to a person when taking a new job in the same or a different organization
Individual and Organizational Perspectives on Socialization
  1. Two-way process
    1. Organization ➔ socialization
    2. Person ➔ individualization
  2. Individual perspective
    1. Need to preserve a unique identity
    2. Need to use unique skills and talents
    3. Need to satisfy a unique set of needs
    4. Also need acceptance by the new organization and its members so talents and abilities will be used
  3. Organizational perspective
    1. Need some degree of conformity to the organization's values and behavior that are considered necessary for the organization's survival
    2. Uniformity in values and behavior decreases conflict potential
    3. Also needs the innovative behavior of its new members if it is to remain viable and survive in a changing environment
    4. Dilemma: getting what it needs for effective role performance without over-specifying role behavior
  4. This is the dilemma of organizational socialization for both the person and the organization. Let us now see how this drama unfolds for us as we begin the process of choosing a new job and entering a new organization
Stages of Organizational Socialization
  1. Choice: anticipatory socialization (“getting in”)
    1. Happens before joining the organization
    2. Make tentative then firm choice of organizations to join. Anticipate what life will be like in each organization — “anticipatory socialization”
    3. Issues
      1. Realism about the organization. Role requirements, culture's values and norms. In short, what is it like to work for this organization?
      2. Realism about the job: what are the job duties? Need to describe both the positive and the negative side
      3. Congruence of skills and abilities. What skills and abilities do you have as an individual? What skills and abilities does the organization need? Note the requirement to present accurate images on both sides. Individual must know what he or she can do and not over- or undersell self. Likewise for the organization
      4. Congruence of needs and values: What needs are you trying to satisfy in the work setting? Can the organizations you are reviewing satisfy those needs?
    4. Outcome of the choice stage: expectations and an image of what it will be like to work for that organization. Anticipatory socialization is trying to convey realism and develop congruence between the person and the organization
    5. Some examples of organizational practices in the choice stage
      1. Recruitment advertising
      2. Recruitment interviews; role of the company recruiter
      3. Internships
      4. Screening and selection assessment centers; testing and selection
    6. Realistic job previews (RJPs). Try to build a realistic image of organization life
  2. Entry/encounter (“breaking in”)
    1. Comparison of expectations to reality
    2. Readiness to be socialized
      1. Degree of motivation to join the organization
      2. Motivation of an individual to stay with the organization; inducements to cause an individual to stay
    3. Role episodes are a highly important part of this stage
    4. Issues not independent of each other
      1. Role clarification. Role in immediate workgroup. Includes both the organization and informal group definition of role requirements. Seeking role clarification within both the organization and the informal group
      2. Learning new tasks. Learning duties, tasks, responsibilities. Evaluation of progress in meeting the demands of the job and the organization
      3. Learning about the workgroup. Interpersonal relations with group members. Learning group norms
      4. Learning to manage various role conflicts
        1. Intragroup
        2. Intergroup
        3. Work-nonwork
    5. Multiple sources of organizational socialization
      1. Organization. Formal rules, policies, procedures; both written and unwritten
      2. Immediate supervisor; performance feedback
      3. Immediate workgroup
      4. The job itself: level of job challenge
    6. Examples of some organization practices in the entry/encounter stage
      1. Apprenticeship
      2. Training programs
      3. Indoctrination programs
      4. Debasement or upending experiences
  3. Change: metamorphosis (“settling in”)
    1. Change to new self-image
    2. Knows the requirements of the job
    3. Has successfully adjusted to socialization demands from many sources
    4. Possible socialization outcomes
      1. Rebellion, custodial, innovation
      2. Content innovation versus role innovation
  4. The stages repeat throughout careers. Degree of socialization may be less as a person encounters each career change. Issue: expectations of the new role will be based partly on what the person has already experienced. Way the person behaves in the new situation will be based partly on how she behaved in the old situation.
Individual Differences and Socialization
  1. Skills and abilities
  2. Self-efficacy beliefs
  3. Selective perception
  4. Attribution processes
  5. Needs
International Aspects of Organizational Socialization
  1. International role transitions and socialization. Features common to both expatriate and repatriate role transitions
    1. Moving to and from roles. Referred to as expatriate and repatriate adjustment. Experience the stages of socialization as in domestic job changes but with some special issues associated with each stage
    2. Both forms of adjustment carry elements of culture shock. Expatriate adjustment is clearly a move from one's home country to a foreign country. Repatriate adjustment follows the return to the person's home country. If the foreign assignment was for the typical three to four years, the home country could have changed in ways unknown to the expatriate. The return presents the person with a culture shock experience, making the adjustment almost as difficult as expatriate adjustment
    3. Dimensions of cross-cultural adjustment
      1. Adjustment to the job and work environment
      2. Adjustment to interacting with local nationals
      3. Adjustment to the culture of the country
    4. Training, as part of the organization's formal socialization process, can help smooth the transitions
  2. Issues in expatriate adjustment
    1. High interest in successful expatriate adjustment because of high incidence of failures
    2. Some special difficulties in expatriate adjustment
      1. Difficulty crossing the inclusionary boundary in the foreign assignment
      2. More dramatic changes, contrasts, and surprises
      3. Need more preparation for international assignments so that the transitions will be less disruptive
    3. Selection of expatriates. Typically selected based on successful performance in domestic roles. Success in Des Moines, Iowa does not guarantee success in New Delhi. Now recommended that criteria other than successful domestic performance be used. Those criteria include past experience in a foreign assignment, an openness to differences among people, and a willingness to learn about another culture. The same aspects of a spouse and other family members also should be considered in the selection decision
    4. Socialization of expatriates. Formal training of those who will go to foreign operations. Although the research evidence shows cross-cultural training is effective in smoothing the transition, only about 30 percent of expatriates get such training before departing from their home country. The training that is offered is not comprehensive. Usually an orientation to the culture of the foreign assignment and the physical environment. Spouses are often not included in such training, although it is becoming clear that their adaptation plays a key role in successful expatriate adjustment
    5. Culture-toughness dimension. Some countries are harder to adjust to than others. Distance of foreign culture from the home culture. Some research says India, Pakistan, and Liberia, for example, are especially tough for U.S. employees. Women also face special issues in cultures with male-dominated norms and values
    6. Career development programs and policies by organizations as ways of smoothing the transitions. Career value of the international assignment
  3. Issues in repatriate adjustment
    1. Repatriates who have been gone for several years will not necessarily have an accurate image of their home culture. During the anticipatory stage before leaving their foreign assignment, the repatriate can develop inaccurate expectations of life back home. Can maintain accurate expectations if the expatriate has had home leave or required visits to the home office
    2. Required interactions with people in the home office because of task interdependence. Interactions by any communication media help here. Includes telephone, facsimile, international teleconferences, direct computer connection
    3. Easier adaptation if expatriate had a sponsor in the home office whose responsibility was to inform the expatriate of major policy and strategic changes back home
    4. The degree of adaptation of the expatriate to the foreign culture can affect adaptation to the home culture
    5. Expatriation salary differentials, housing allowances, culture novelty, and time in assignments can inhibit repatriation adjustment. Can have a downward shift in perceived status
    6. Predeparture training rarely is done. Training on return could also help. Make it part of the organization's formal socialization of the repatriate
Ethical Issues in Organizational Socialization
  1. Shaping a person's values and behavior
  2. Not revealing socialization goals of company training programs. A question of full disclosure of intent
  3. Using debasement experiences
  4. Knowingly withholding from potential employees negative information about working for the company. Can happen in recruitment advertising or during the recruitment interview. At what point does an organization move into the unethical arena?
  5. A potential employee knowingly withholding information about self that could affect her performance

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Chapter Summary

Organizational socialization is a powerful process that affects an individual's behavior and helps shape and maintain an organization's culture. It usually is the first behavioral process a person experiences after joining an organization. Part of the socialization process happens before joining an organization. Other parts happen after joining.

Organizations ask employees to take on specific roles that have behavioral requirements. The three types of role behavior are pivotal (required), relevant (desired), and peripheral (tolerated). Those role behaviors are learned in a series of role episodes that unfold during socialization. The socialization process is continuous throughout a person's association with an organization, but it is most intense before and after boundary transitions. Boundary transitions have three dimensions: functional (job), hierarchical (promotion), and inclusionary (inward movement).

The anticipatory stage of socialization creates expectations about life in the organization before a person enters the organization. The person compares those expectations to the reality experienced in the entry/encounter stage. The entry/encounter stage happens after the person crosses the organization's boundary and begins the first day of employment. After successful adaptation to socialization demands, the employee passes through the metamorphosis stage. In this stage, the employee experiences the final adaptation to the organization's demands.

Organizations operating in an international context face special socialization issues. People moving to other countries (expatriates) experience the same stages of socialization as they do in domestic job changes. On return to their home country, repatriates can experience culture shock while readapting to their home culture.

Several ethical issues center on whether there is a need for informed consent about an organization's goal of shaping a person's values and behavior by its socialization processes. The broad ethical question is: “Should the organization tell potential and existing employees about the goals of its socialization process?”

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Personal and Management Implications

The anticipatory stage of socialization has an especially important implication for everyone. Get as much information as you can about the organizations that interest you. Examine existing documents for clues about the organization's culture. Useful sources include annual reports and press accounts about an organization's activities. You also can gather information from an organization's Web site and other Internet sources. If possible, contact existing employees of the organization to get some idea about the organization's culture from an informed insider. The accuracy of your image of the organization and its culture will make your adaptation to the organization much easier. Getting accurate information at this stage is highly important for taking an assignment in another country. The latter will feature much that is new about the external culture surrounding the organization.

Present yourself accurately and candidly. Know your values, skills, abilities, and limits. You play a key role in the other side of a realistic job preview. There also is a strong need for a “realistic employee preview.” You may need to temper your presentation's accuracy with your knowledge of the target organization's culture. Some organization recruiters would react adversely to a candid self-presentation, especially if their organization's culture supports and values deception.

The importance of a realistic job preview to new employee retention and performance cannot be overemphasized. Managers should let potential new employees know both the good and the bad points about working for the organization. Such accurate information becomes highly important for new employees taking an assignment in another country. Include information about the local culture in the realistic job preview. You will find the socialization process much easier if newcomers have such a preview.

Managers play a potent role in the socialization process. Your behavior as a manager sends signals and cues about important values in the culture. For example, if the organizational culture highly values punctuality, your behavior should reflect your acceptance of this value. If it values ethical behavior in all organization actions, you must behave in ways that show you accept that value.

The performance appraisals you do with a newcomer are also an important way of giving feedback about how the person sees and interprets the organization. Tell her the meaning you see in events that have happened to her and show her the events are part of the routine life of the organization. The latter is especially true for events newcomers might interpret as “goofy” but are highly valued by you and the organization.

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