Posts Tagged social identity
Regular readers of this blog will know that a recurring theme is the notion of meaning in our working lives. I’m also a big fan of simple models and frameworks to help structure and analyse complex ideas. So, I was excited to discover an article which not only conducted an extensive review of the literature of meaning in work, but which presented a simple way of categorising the various ways in which people find meaning.
Here is another bit of management theory that could be usefully applied to careers work…
Many career theories address the influence of other people on an individual’s career choice. For example, Community Interaction theory looks at the mechanisms by which peers, parents, ethnic groups, etc., influence individual career decisions. Clients often have to take into account the views and needs of significant people in their lives. Does management theory have any light to shine on this?
At the end of last year I taught a Chartered Management Institute Level 3 Leadership and Management course. It was great fun as it allowed me to play with various leadership and management theories and apply them to practical situations.
During the course, we touched on strategic planning and I came across an interesting model/theory about different approaches to strategy used by organisations. It occurred to me that this could be applicable to individuals thinking about their own career development strategy.
It’s a new year — the end of one chapter and the beginning of another — a time to change.
The more dramatic the change, the more likely it is to lead to a transformation of your identity. Some changes involve integrating into new environments, building new relationships and developing new behaviours. You may have to leave behind some of the things that currently help you to define yourself and incorporate new things. This can be especially true if, like many of my recent clients, the change is something that has been forced upon you and is quite dramatic — such as redundancy.
Such a change may bring about a transformation of identity. A lot of clients undergoing this kind of process struggle with how to describe themselves. ‘I used to be a… What am I now?’
What makes for a successful identity transformation — whether it is voluntary or imposed upon you?
How does change happen?
What motivates change?
What makes a change sustainable?
Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, has the answers… or maybe an answer: Intentional Change Theory.
Professor Boyatzis has earned a mention on this blog previously for a natty little theory he developed with David Kolb (of learning styles fame) about the various modes of performance, learning and development one goes through repeatedly in one’s career. He is also a researcher, writer and speaker on the subject of emotional intelligence.
One of the most influential thinkers in the field of developmental psychology was Erik Erikson. Originally a pupil of Freud, he made a name for himself with his work on the development of human social identity.
I read about Erikson’s theories when studying for my professional qualification, but most emphasis on developmental theory in careers is dominated by the work of Donald Super. However, Erikson’s ideas of identity formation in adolescence has provided the basis for much thought and exploration around the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Do you get sick of the succession of students falling over themselves to obtain a career in ‘The City’? Even the credibility-destroying events that led to the worst recession in decades don’t seem to have deterred the lemming charge of undergraduates towards this particular high cliff. And when you ask them why they are interested in this type of career, there is one word which falls from their lips with depressing predictability — money.
Are these young people hopelessly materialistic? Is their only notion of value linked to the size of their potential bonus? If you look at the Fred Goodwins of this world you might say yes. But are bankers only greedy because they are stuck at a more rudimentary stage of psychological development?
In 1977 Joseph LeDoux and colleagues conducted an interesting experiment on a boy whose left and right brain hemispheres had been surgically separated. They set up a system in which they could ask questions to the separate halves of his brain. Because the left hemisphere controls many aspects of speech, the right brain had to spell out its answers using Scrabble tiles. [LeDoux, J.E., Wilson, D.H. & Gazzaniga, M.S. (1977) A divided mind: Observations on the conscious properties of the separated hemispheres. Annals of Neurology, 2(5) 417-421.]
One of the questions they asked was about what job he would like. The left brain said ‘draftsman’ but the right brain spelled out ‘automobile race’. Because the left brain controls language, it gets to articulate its choices, but the right brain may have other ideas.
The left brain is often associated with linear reasoning, structure and detail and the right brain with holistic reasoning, emotional tone and the big picture – although the real situation is more complex. Apparently, the picture of the spinning dancer below can tell you if you naturally favour your right or left brain. If she appears to be spinning anti-clockwise, you’re a left-brainer, clockwise and you’re a right-brainer. If you think this test is a bit simplistic — that’s a no-brainer. Actually, If this test tells you anything, it may only be which half of your brain you favour at a particular moment for certain types of visual processing and perception, but that may not be true for other functions, or it may be nothing to do with left-right brain differences.
Another more recent set of studies did not involve sliced brains but a more subtle manipulation of social identities in order to produce an internal conflict of opinions.
Careers - in Theory is a blog from The Careers Group, University of London.
The aim of this blog is to highlight and discuss theories, models, research and other interesting stuff that might have an impact on the work of careers education and guidance.
At The Careers Group we like to think deeply about the work we do whilst maintaining our practicality and our sense of humour.
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