Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Developing Strong Socialization Processes in the Workplace

New employees are often confused about the expectations and requirements of their new positions and the organization where they work. These uncertainties result in feelings of stress, confusion, anxiety, awkwardness and uneasiness (Louis, 1980). Such feelings create insecure inaction that begins to clear up the longer the employee is employed. Yet managers can speed up the socialization process by developing stronger communication networks and transference of information through a proper socialization process.

One of the first things new employees look for to clear up this confusion is a point of reference. This typically is the person they are first introduced. Such points of reference are based upon interpersonal communication and the information they can secure through the work network. This point of reference is fostered from another employee, organizational information, or their managers (Barge & Schlueter, 2004).

It is important for managers to understand precisely what points of reference employees are being offered or most likely to attach themselves. For example, if an employee receives one day of training and then left to their work group to understand their environment they will use available positive and negative information to make their conclusions. It is the constant communication between managers and employees that helps foster alternative points of reference that further more appropriate impressions and final conclusions.

The totality of positive and negative impressions can impact the success of the employee and cause low productivity and higher turnover rates into the future. During the initial organizational entry period both formal and informal messages combine to either reinforce engagement or encourage disengagement from the organization (Altman, Visel & Brown, 1981). Strong orientations and constant communication can develop higher levels of engagement that allow the integration of the self with the organizational expectations.

The very first months will create attitudes, behavior, and knowledge that determine employee level engagement with company expectations (Allen, 2006). After these first impressions are created it becomes extremely difficult to change the course of thinking without higher levels of intervention. Such impressions make their way throughout the employees’ method of thinking creating additional justifications why their assumptions are true. Competing information is often ignored due to high levels of selection attention that don’t fit with initial assumptions.

The initial signs of uncertainty most employees feel when entering the workplace is the ideal time to open up communication lines and socialize employees to positive workplace expectations. This is the time when information seeking behavior increases (Berger and Calabrese, 1975). In such a situation it is beneficial to offer the needed information in order to both reduce this information seeking behavior as well as limit the cost of initial lackluster performance throughout the socialization process. 

Managers who engage their employees through positive communication and expectation building have the capacity to create higher levels of performance with less wasted time and disciplinary distractions that impact the department long into the future. Proactive management should consider the benefits of spending additional time at the beginning of the socialization process to ensure that initial impressions are strong so that future information is filtered and categorized appropriately by the employee. A little extra effort in the beginning can create stronger group development in the future once a general culture has been developed.

Allen, D. (2006). Do organizational socialization tactics influence newcomer embeddedness
and turnover? Journal of Management, doi: 10.1177/0149206305280103.

Altman, I., Vinsel, A. & Brown, B. (1981). Dialectic conceptions in social psychology: An
application to social penetration and privacy regulation. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances
in experimental social psychology (Vol. 14, pp. 107-160). New York: Academic Press.

Barge, J. & Schlueter, D. (2004). Memorable messages and newcomer socialization.
Western Journal of Communication, 68(3), 233-256.

Berger, C. & Calabrese, R. (1975). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond:
Toward a theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research,
1(2), 99-112.

Louis, M. (1980). Surprise and sense making: What newcomers experience in entering
unfamiliar organizational settings. Administrative Science Quarterly, 25(2), 226-251.

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