Managing multiple (dis)identifications : questioning the desirability and utility of identification in volunteer work
Interest in organizational identification continues to expand alongside the growing options for organizational and member relationships. This dissertation examines the identification processes of volunteer workers at a non-profit organization and identifies the varied ways individuals aligned with or distanced themselves from different aspects of the organization. Drawing on data from interviews and observations of work at an animal shelter in the Southern U.S., this research reveals how individuals’ identifications were espoused and enacted in communication. The diverse and dynamic nature of the identifications of these workers, and the role of communication in the processes identified, challenge three common scholarly assumptions concerning identification and organizations. First, identification is typically perceived as a monolithic construct, meaning that most studies view an individuals’ relationship to work within an organization through a lens of organizational identification. The present study provides empirical support for the existence of multiple identifications within a singular organization, and considers the communicative distinctions between these identifications. Second, though research has also largely assumed that the opposite of identification is an absence of identification this dissertation argues that greater attention should be paid to disidentification as a distinct communicative process that describes how individuals actively construct identities separate from an organizational target. The final assumption in the literature presupposes that organizational identification leads to organizational benefits and should be sought by both organizations and individual workers. The findings of this work indicate that in a non-profit context it may not always be advantageous for members to develop organizational identification. Furthermore, the communication of the animal shelter workers revealed that the ability of individuals to hold multiple identifications or switch among identifications provided them a means to endure undesirable work conditions. By demonstrating the diverse and dynamic nature of identification among workers in a non-profit context, this work provides scholars a lens with which to broaden our understanding of identification as a communicative construct and invites scholars to explore (dis)identification in varied, and novel organizational forms.