Article | Administrative Science Quarterly | March 2013

Breaking Them In or Revealing Their Best? Reframing Socialization Around Newcomer Self-expression

by Daniel M. Cable, Francesca Gino and Brad Staats

Abstract

Socialization theory has focused on enculturating new employees such that they develop pride in their new organization and internalize its values. Drawing on authenticity research, we propose that the initial stage of socialization leads to more effective employment relationships when it instead primarily encourages newcomers to express their personal identities. In a field experiment carried out in a large business process outsourcing company, we found that initial socialization focused on personal identity (emphasizing newcomers' authentic best selves) led to greater customer satisfaction and employee retention after six months as compared to (a) socialization that focused on organizational identity (emphasizing the pride to be gained from organizational affiliation) and (b) the organization's traditional approach, which focused primarily on skills training. To confirm causation and explore the mechanisms underlying the effects, we replicated the results in a laboratory experiment. We found that individuals working temporarily as part of a research team were more engaged and satisfied with their work, performed their tasks more effectively, and were more likely to return to work when initial socialization focused on personal identity as compared to a focus on organizational identity or a control condition. In addition, authentic self-expression mediated these relationships. We call for a new direction in socialization theory that examines how both organizations and employees benefit by emphasizing newcomers' authentic best selves.

Keywords: Socialization; Authenticity; Self-Expression; identity; best self; outsourcing; Employee Retention; Organizational Culture; Retention; Identity; Customer Satisfaction;

Citation:

Cable, Daniel M., Francesca Gino, and Brad Staats. "Breaking Them In or Revealing Their Best? Reframing Socialization Around Newcomer Self-expression." Administrative Science Quarterly 58, no. 1 (March 2013): 1–36.