Past research focuses predominantly on self-enhancement as a motive underlying organizational identification even though there have been several calls for examining multiple motives of identification. Our research explores the interplay of the self-enhancement and the uncertainty reduction motives in shaping identification during a major organizational change: a merger of a business unit with its parent corporation. Based on analysis of survey responses collected from 751 employees of the merging business unit, we find that the self-enhancement motive, measured via attractiveness of perceived organizational identity and perceived external prestige, continues to influence identification during this merger. However, its effects are diminished when considering the effect of the uncertainty reduction motive. In particular, in addition to affecting identification directly, this latter motive, measured via agreement with projected identity of the business unit and identification with a distal target (i.e., the parent corporation), decreases the effect of perceived external prestige on business unit identification. Our research answers longstanding calls for understanding organizational identification motives beyond self-enhancement, and shows how multiple identification motives work during a major organizational change: a time when identification is strongly needed, yet hard to garner.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Management Studies
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Elstak, M.N, Bhatt, M, van Riel, C.B.M, Pratt, M.G, & Berens, G.A.J.M. (2015). Organizational Identification during a Merger: The Role of Self-Enhancement and Uncertainty Reduction Motives during a Major Organizational Change. Journal of Management Studies, 52(1), 32–62. doi:10.1111/joms.12105