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Organizational Identity Dynamics: The Emergence of Micro-level Factors in Organizational Identity Processes for an Acquired Organization Open Access

Organizational Identity Dynamics:The Emergence of Micro-level Factors in Organizational Identity Processesfor an Acquired OrganizationThis single case study examined the construct of organizational identity, defined as that which is central (i.e., fundamental to the organization), enduring (i.e., persisting over time), and distinctive (i.e., uniquely descriptive) about an organization’s character (Albert & Whetten, 1985). Specifically, the study addressed the research question: What are the organizational identity processes occurring in an acquired organization? While past research has addressed the construction of organizational identity, little research has examined this phenomenon after an organizational acquisition. The organizational identity dynamics model by Hatch and Schultz (2002) provided the theoretical underpinnings for this research and was utilized to establish the conceptual framework for this study. This qualitative research study explored how organizational identity was constructed for members of an acquired organization as they initially learned of the acquisition and as they assimilated into their new organizational environment. Data were collected through semistructured interviews, document and archival review, and artifact review. This methodology maintained research integrity by establishing reliability and trustworthiness, with data triangulation used to validate study results and findings. The setting for this research was a private, family-owned transportation organization that had recently acquired a competing company. This research study yielded three primary findings. First, individual-level variables such as personal anxiety or career status were significant factors in the organizational identity processes. Second, sensemaking was critical in the identity process for members of AcquiredCo. Findings indicated that sensemaking was enacted through several key factors, including organizational image, sensegiving by the acquiring organization, comparison processes, social learning, artifacts, and critical incidents. Last, the preacquisition environment of the acquired organization had a significant role in the identity-related processes. This research study contributes to both theory and practice, expanding theoretical knowledge of identity construction for members of an acquired organization. Additionally, the research findings provide significant benefits to organizations that seek to more effectively assimilate members of an acquired organization into the acquiring organization, ultimately with a greater understanding of “who we are” (Gioia, 1998) as an organization.

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