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The socialisation of new members into an organisation's

culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the


individual, and is unethical and should be condemned.
Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the
reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

1. Introduction
This report will present a balanced fact-based perspective on the issue of Organisational
Socialisation. It will explore its modus operandi and examine its use as a form of behaviour
modification/manipulation technique which can be used to benefit the company. In addition,
the manipulative effect will also be studied in positive or negative perspectives depending on
use addressing specifically the question of ethics.

2. Definitions
Organisational Culture
Organisational Culture encapsulates psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values
(personal and cultural values) of an organisation. It has been defined as "the specific collection
of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organisation and that control
the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organisation.

According to Schein (1992), culture springs from three sources:


i. beliefs, values, and assumptions of the founders of the organisation;
ii. learning experience of units within the organisation; and
iii. new beliefs, values and assumptions held by new members, leaders, and stakeholders.

Organisational Socialisation
Van Maanen and Schein (1979) state that Organisational Socialisation is the process by which
an individual acquires the social knowledge and skills necessary to assume an organisational
role. Through this process a new member or employee 'learns the ropes,' by becoming
sensitive to the formal and informal power structure and the explicit and implicit rules of
behaviour.

Wanous et al. (1984) additionally state that Organisational Socialisation is the process by
which an individual enters an organisation and becomes a fully participating and effective
member.
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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

Huczynski and Buchanan’s (2007) summary definition though of Organisational Socialisation


being “the process through which an individual’s pattern of behaviour, and his or her values,
attitudes and motives are influenced to conform with those seen as desirable in a particular
organisation” alludes to the overt role of ‘manipulation’ in Organisational Socialisation. It is
also important to understand that the socialisation process continues throughout the
employee’s association with the company though Van Maanen and Schein (1979) mention
socialisation is more intense and problematic when a new employee crosses into the
organisation's boundary upon joining the organisation (Boundary transition).

3. Benefits of Organisational Socialisation


A strong organisational culture can ensure a behavioural consistency in the organisation.
Many academics have argued that a strong organisational culture can be the source of
sustained competitive advantage. In addition, Allen and Meyer (1990) and Baker (1992) both
reported a positive link between socialisation and both job satisfaction and organisational
commitment. However a strong and consistent culture can only be cultivated through proper
transmission. The process of transmitting organisational culture to newcomers is essentially
Organisation Socialisation. Summary of benefits derived from Organisational Socialisation:

For the organisation


· Ensures culture of the organisation endures and grows
· Enables new members to adapt quickly
· Reduces variability of behaviours
· Ensures behaviour predictability

For the new member (employee)


· Performs role assignments effectively
· Remains with organisation
· Spontaneously innovates and cooperates
· Generally satisfied
· Internally motivated to work
· High job involvement
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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

Certainly Robbins (2001) view of socialisation as a means of an organisation helping new


employees to “adapt to its culture” is an altruistic view and in that sense socialisation is not
unethical at all. Conversely, there are also views which equate socialisation to brainwashing
(indoctrinate systemically and so completely as to effect a radical transformation of attitudes
and beliefs) which suppresses individual development in favour of social conformity (Concise
Oxford Dictionary, 2004). However, there are key factors (see Appendix) which clearly
distinguish coercive persuasion (brainwashing) from other training and socialisation schemes
(Ofshe, 1992) and hence it would be erroneous to equate the two.

4. Organisation Socialisation & Bearing on Ethics


The question then centres on the issue of ethics. In the transmission of organisational culture
through socialisation is the modification or manipulation of new members’ behaviours
considered ethical? What constitutes ethical processes can be a highly personal opinion and is
influenced by a variety of factors. Where there are coercive methods employed or if there is a
requirement for a compromise of personal moral or religious codes, then the argument for
socialisation as unethical will likely be valid and rightfully condemned.

Perhaps it would be relatively easier to argue that Organisation Socialisation is unethical if


viewed from B.F. Skinner's Behaviour Modification (1935) perspective of replacing undesirable
behaviours with acceptable ones through positive or negative stimuli. This theory lends itself
readily to negative caricature since it focuses on Radical Behaviourism making no allowance
for cognitive or symbolic process. Communicating these rules though Organisation
Socialisation can lead to a climate of fear resulting in weak organisation culture, but not
always (e.g. Basic Military Training where debasement experiences for negative behaviour as
a socialisation tactic is a requisite process for instilling discipline and strict regimentation).
These Collective and Divestiture socialisation tactics (Van Maanen and Schein, 1979) take a
group of recruits who are facing a given boundary passage and putting them through a
common set of experiences together and bonded by debasement practices.

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

It is less easy to see ethical issues with behaviour modification through Organisational
Socialisation if looked through Van Maanen's and Schein's process scope "by which an
individual acquires the social knowledge and skills necessary to assume an organisational
role."

It is important therefore to succinctly explore the bearing on ethics by Organisational


Socialisation through understanding the tactics employed within the phases of socialisation
(with particular emphasis on the Anticipatory & Encounter phases) identified by Feldman
(1976) since we are dealing specifically with new members in boundary transition.

A. Model of Socialisation (Feldman, 1976)


i. Anticipatory Phase -- Before entry into the organisation
This phase deals with the new member even before they join the organisation. A practical
example of this is the interview process which aims to paint realistic pictures of the role / job.
This prevents entry shock by incoming members and unanticipated issues. Values matching
applicant and company are best matched here and new members adjust to new the
environment quicker.

The recent spat between new and old members of the Association of Women for Action and
Research (AWARE) Singapore brings to importance the anticipatory phase.

If organisation had communicated its sexual ‘inclusive’ values to these new members at the
Pre-arrival stage (Pascale, 1985), would it have avoided the subsequent internal power
struggle against those who were advocates for homosexual equality? This would have avoided
a negative perception of the organisation and its inclusiveness in a public arena. To AWARE’s
management, a proper anticipatory socialisation process would have been perceived as
ethical.

However would forcing those new members to accept the values of AWARE of being
'inclusive' mean coercion upon them to compromise since they are fundamentally (through

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

religious affiliation) opposed to homosexuality? To the new members this would be unethical.
Or does the debate hinge on perspective?

ii. Encounter Phase -- The initial experiences of the new member in the organisation
The encounter phase is essentially the first few days on the job. A common activity during this
phase could be an orientation programme designed to communicate the mission, vision and
values of the organisation to the new members. This is considered a formal tactic of
socialisation as identified by Van Maanen and Schein (1979). The ultimate aim of this phase is
to communicate and where possible/necessary ensure an acceptable degree of conformity to
organisational norms and the gradual acquisition of appropriate role behaviour (Johns and
Saks, 2007).

Enron’s failed corporate culture notably placed questionable emphasis on the value of money
resulting in unethical corner-cutting by pressured executives struggling to make their numbers
and the formation of a ‘yes-man’ culture. Jeff Skilling, the former CEO was even quoted as
saying “You can buy loyalty with money.” (Zellner, 2002). It can be effectively argued to force
a new member to adapt to such an environment is unethical because it causes one to
compromise professional ethics. This particular example has down-the-line repercussions in
Feldman’s third phase of socialisation – Change & Acquisition – where after a behaviour
change in new members has occurred, they now in turn show other newcomers ‘the ropes’
which is defined a Serial tactic (Van Maanen and Schein, 1979).

In contrast, Toyota Motor Corporation is a banner for effective organisational socialisation


with their renowned ‘Toyota Way’ – 14 principles which embody the company culture and
management philosophy. Once in a while, Toyota employees from around the globe come to
the company's Toyota City plant near Nagoya, Japan for indoctrination in the Toyota Way
which emphasizes long term thinking, a process of solving problems and continuously
improving, a driver of organisational learning. This idea of the 'Learning Organisation' and how
open it is to embracing new ideas and improvement through continual change has defined not
only Toyota’s success but also others which subscribe to it.

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

The enabling of employees to continue learning can be construed / perceived as ethical. Van
Maanen and Schein (1979) themselves stated, "…that learning itself is a continuous and life-
long process, the entire organisational career of an individual can be characterised as a
socialisation process."

Most times though the need for Organisational Socialisation and ensuring culture
homogeneity stems from the negative desire to not ‘rock-the-boat’ by potentially interrupting
current practices or questioning process status quo.

5. Conclusion

Perhaps the notion of Organisational Socialisation being unethical hinges on informed


consent? Should the organisation tell potential new employees that it will try to change some
values and behaviour? Should an organisation reveal the socialisation and training goals of its
orientation / training programs before employees enter the company / programmes?

The debate over the ethicality of Organisational Socialisation continues to have proponents on
both sides of the coin. For the purpose of this report, the conclusion is that Organisational
Socialisation is not unethical in itself but the socialisation tactics adopted under various
organisational conditions can have ethical dilemmas.

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

References

Allen, N. and Meyer, J. (1990). ‘Organizational Socialization Tactics: A Longitudinal Analysis


of Links to Newcomer's Commitment and Role Orientation.’ Academy of Management
Journal, 33:48, pp. 847-858

Baker, H.E. III (1992). ‘Employee socialization strategies and the presence of union
representation’, Labor Studies Journal, 17 pp.5-17

Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2004). 11th ed. Edited by Soanes, C., Stevenson, A.

Feldman, D.C. (1976). ‘A Contingency Theory of Socialization’, Administrative Science


Quarterly, 21:3, pp. 433-452

Huczynski, A. and Buchanan, D. (2007). Organizational Behaviour: An Introductory Text, 6th


ed. London: Prentice Hall

John, G. and Saks, A.M. (2007). Organizational Behaviour: Understanding and Managing Life
at Work, 7th ed. Canada: Pearson Education

Ofshe, R.J., (1992). ‘Coercive persuasion and attitude change.’ In E. F. Borgatta & M. L.
Borgatta (Eds.). Encyclopedia of sociology, pp. 212-224. New York: Macmillan

Pascale, R.T. (1985). ‘The Paradox of Corporate Culture: Reconciling ourselves to


socialization’. Californian Management Review, 27:2, pp. 26-41

Robbins, S. (2001). Organizational Behaviour. Prentice Hall, 9th ed. New Jersey

Schein, E.H. (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass, San
Francisco, CA

Skinner, B.H. (1935). ‘The generic nature of the concepts of stimulus and response’. Journal
of General Psychology, 9, pp. 40-65.

Van Maanen, J.E., Schein, E.H. (1979). ‘Towards a theory of organizational socialization’, in
Staw, B.M. (Eds), Research in Organizational Behaviour, 1, 209-64

Wanous, J.P., Reichers, A.E., Malik, S.D. (1984). ‘Organizational Socialization and Group
Development: Toward an Integrative Perspective’. The Academy of Management Review, 9:
4, pp. 670-683

Zellner, W. (2002). ‘Jeff Skilling: Enron’s Missing Man’, Business Week, February 11, pp. 38–
40

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual,
and is unethical and should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.
UB NO: 08029861

Appendix

The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes

1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's


sense of self to promote compliance
2. The use of an organized peer group
3. Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity
4. The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once
modified
Ofshe, R.J., (1992). ‘Coercive persuasion and attitude change.’ In E. F. Borgatta & M. L. Borgatta (Eds.).
Encyclopedia of sociology, pp. 212-224. New York: Macmillan

Seven steps of organizational socialization

Pascale, R.T. (1985). ‘The Paradox of Corporate Culture: Reconciling ourselves to socialization’.
Californian Management Review, 27:2, pp. 26-41

Six dimensions (tactics) of Socialisation

1. Collective vs. individual socialization processes


2. Formal vs. informal socialization processes
3. Sequential vs. random steps in the socialization process
4. Fixed vs. variable socialization processes
5. Serial vs. disjunctive socialization processes
6. Investiture vs. divestiture socialization processes

Van Maanen, J.E., Schein, E.H. (1979). ‘Towards a theory of organizational socialization’, in Staw, B.M.
(Eds), Research in Organizational Behaviour, 1, 209-64

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4. The socialisation of new members into an organisation's culture is no more or less than a manipulation of the individual, and is unethical and
should be condemned. Discuss whether you agree or disagree and explain the reasons for your answer.