Feeling misidentified: the consequences of internal identity asymmetries for individuals at work
Melbourne Business School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is currently not available from this repository
© 2015 Dr. Alyson Lee Meister
People have an enduring interest and concern with how they are perceived by others, particularly when these others can influence key outcomes. For example, at work, factors like promotions, performance reviews, pay raises and coveted assignments are often tied to the perceptions and evaluations of one’s colleagues. Given this, individuals are likely to discern and monitor how their colleagues see them in the workplace. What happens, then, when individuals believe that their colleagues have an incorrect understanding of their identity? In this thesis, I define, unpack and examine this experience, internal identity asymmetry, the belief that one is misidentified by important others at work. I explore internal identity asymmetry through three papers, which together employ multiple methodologies and analysis techniques to develop insight into this important identity process in the workplace. My first paper (Chapter 2) links the identity, self-verification, and impression management literatures to conceptually introduce the concept of internal identity asymmetry. Drawing on the stress and coping literature, I suggest that cognitive appraisal processes moderate asymmetry’s positive or negative outcomes. Through field studies of over 300 working individuals, in my second paper (Chapter 3), I demonstrate the importance of internal identity asymmetry and its appraisal by examining its impacts on individuals’ attitudes and performance. Importantly, I show that while asymmetry may drive negative attitudes, at the same time it can positively impact an individual’s performance. Finally, incorporating the gender and leadership literatures, I explore the subjective experience of internal identity asymmetry through qualitative interviews of women leaders. I explore the types of asymmetry experienced by women, delve into the strategies they use to cope with and manage the experience, and uncover when they are most likely to experience it throughout their careers. Together these studies provide us with a greater understanding of an important intra-individual phenomenon - internal identity asymmetry - that has significant implications for individuals at work.
KeywordsIdentity; leadership; asymmetry; self-identity
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