Ambivalent identification refers to the extent to which an individual or group of people perceive, recognise and are able to distinguish and label conflicting feelings about an issue. A number of studies have found that most people have a mixture of feelings towards their organisation at the same time which cases them to both identify with and dis-identify from their organisation or company.
Social psychologists have known for a long time that people often experience ambivalence, conflicting feelings and uncertainty in their interpersonal relationships (such as marriage & friendships) and have also found that most individuals are fully capable of:
- Consciously dealing both the positive and negative aspects of another person or entity like their organisation or family, and
- Can maintain the state of ambivalence or uncertainty about the relationship over the very long periods of time, often for many years (Thompson & Holmes, 1996)
Ambivalent identification has recently been found to be a key issue in organisational psychology and organisational sciences, and in particular is closely related to the level of organisational identification a person feels and that has a direct impact on their behaviour and the ability to be able to predict their behaviour in organisations. (Schuh et al 2016).
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Ashforth, B. E. (2001). Role transitions in organizational life: An identity-based perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Ashforth, B. E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14, 20–39.
Dukerich, J. M., Kramer, R., & McLean Parks, J. (1998). The dark side of organizational identification. In D. A. Whetten, & P. C. Godfrey (Eds.), Identity in organizations: Building theory through conversations (pp. 245–256). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Schuh, S. C., Van Quaquebeke, N., Göritz, A. S., Xin, K. R., De Cremer, D., & Van Dick, R. (2016). Mixed feelings, mixed blessing? How ambivalence in organizational identification relates to employees’ regulatory focus and citizenship behaviors. human relations, 69(12), 2224-2249.
Thompson, M. M., & Holmes, J. G. (1996). Ambivalence in close relationships: conflicted cognitions as a catalyst for change. In R. M. Sorrentino, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition. Vol. 3: The interpersonal context (pp. 497–530). New York: Guilford Press.