Organisational Socialisation and its Effect on Commitment

Seminar Paper, 2002

15 Pages, Grade: Credit = 2

Free online reading


1. Introduction

2. Organizational Socialization
2.1 A Definition
2.2 Content Areas of Socialization
2.3 The Process of Socialization

3. Commitment
3.1 Measures of Commitment
3.2 How to produce Commitment

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Recently there have been many advances in methods to choose the right applicant for a position. This would suggest a better recruitment and therefore a lower turnover rate among newcomers. But still over 50 % of all newcomers quit their jobs within the first five years. According to Kennedy the “number one reason for this turnover is the newcomer´s failure to fit into the organization´s culture” (Kennedy cited in Chao 1988, p. 31). The process to introduce newcomers into the organizational culture is called “organizational socialization” and is increasingly believed to have a high influence on the newcomer´s performance and turnover.

In the following I will first describe the organizational socialization itself. The third chapter will examine commitment and the effects of organizational socialization on commitment. Due to limited space this essay can only give a short summary of the field of organizational socialization which is in itself enormously broad.

Throughout this essay I am going to refer to my working experience with the Walt Disney World Corp. I was employed at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for 9 months from 1998 to 1999 as a Cultural Representative in the German Pavilion of the EPCOT-Center, where I worked in the food and beverage department.

2. Organizational Socialization

2.1 A Definiton

There are many terms referring to the process of introducing a newcomer: introduction, induction, orientation, socialization etc. Most authors use “orientation” and “induction” as synonyms (see Stone 1998, p.334). These words usually refer to more formal orientation programs.

Socialization, however, is used to describe a much bigger context:

“Socialization is the ongoing process of instilling in all employees the prevailing attitudes, standards, values, and patterns of behavior that are expected by the organization and its departments” (Dessler 1999, p. 249). “Ongoing” implies that the process does not only affect newcomers: “Socialization (….) is important for established organizational members as well” (Chao et al, 1994, p. 742).

It seems clear that such a complex process can not only be fulfilled by a formal orientation program.

Socialization can be divided into “(1) the organization´s socialization of the newcomer, and (2) the newcomer´s personalizing of the organization.” (Wanous 1980, p. 168). But as the first view can be measured much easier (see Wanous 1980 p. 168), socialization is mostly “defined as those changes caused by the organization that take place in newcomers” (Wanous 1980, p. 168).

The following chapters will build upon these definitions.

2.2 Content Areas of Socialization

According to Chao et al (1994), there are two types of research on organizational socialization: “Most of the literature examines the process of socialization”, whereas the second approach “is concerned with the content of socialization” (Chao et al 1994, p. 730). Due to space limitations the second approach will be covered in the appendix, explaining two different approaches to content areas as well as their application to Disney.

2.3 The Process of Socialization

As stated in 2.2, most of the research concerning socialization has examined its process. Therefore a variety of models exists, mostly stage models. Due to space limitations I will only examine Chao´s approach to the socialization-process, and apply it to Disney. Most other stage models like Feldman´s, Buchanan´s, Porter, Lawler, and Hackman´s, Schein´s and Wanous´s have been extensively discussed in literature (see Wanous 1980, p. 173ff; Harris 1994, p. 211).

Chao assumes that the socialization process starts before the actual first day of work.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Abb: Organizational Socialization Model for Newcomers according to Chao 1988, p.33 4

The Anticipatory Socialization of the newcomer represents “all of the newcomer´s learning prior to joining a specific organization (Feldman cited in Chao 1988, p. 32). In our example this includes my education and general work attitudes, acquired during former work assignments or experiences during university or school education.

The Recruitment Process is an attempt of the organization to “select those applicants who would be most likely to successfully socialize themselves in the organization” (Chao 1988, p. 35). The interview itself is the first and often the only opportunity for the organization and the newcomer to meet each other, but there is a variety of other selection methods.

Disney recruits its newcomers very carefully to make sure the newcomer has a suitable personality. One reason for the importance of this is the strong organizational culture Disney owns (see 2.4). First, the newcomer has to apply formally to the company, which is followed by an interview in the applicant´s home- country. There he meets at least one of his future supervisors and is presented an overview of the workplace during a video-presentation. Wherever possible, Disney tries to encourage former cast members to attend this presentation to provide information about their experiences.

Disney tries to find perfectly matching cast members. According to Wanous (1980) there is a danger of “too much matching of person to organization” (Wanous 1980, p. 194). He states that there are three levels of matching: the rebel, who does not match at all, the conformist, who matches completely, and the creative individualist, who is in the middle of the two other. Wanous then suggests that there is a difference in the degree of innovation, with the creative individualist being the most innovative (see Wanous 1980, p. 195) and therefore the best choice.

How come that Disney does not follow this suggestion? One reason is that the organization is highly effective in what it does: making guests happy and returning. Therefore they do not have any interest in a change. Wanous states: “ineffective organizations do not need “more of the same” if they are to improve” (Wanous 1980, p. 196). Another reason might be that the position I worked in was not a management position, and therefore the company could avoid a lot of conflicts by looking for matching personalities.

Another aspect of the recruitment process is the provision of Realistic Job Previews (RJP), which “can be used to inoculate newcomers from carrying unrealistically optimistic expectations into their new jobs” (Chao 1988, p. 35). This phenomena is examined in Wanous 1980 and Wood 2000. Disney tries to provide RJPs by inviting former cast-members to the presentations - unfortunately at my presentation there was none of them.

The two aspects described above influence the newcomer´s job expectations and therefore his “initial attitudes and behaviors about the job” (Chao 1988, p. 36). I myself expected less hard and dirty work and more “cultural representation”, as the job-title and the presentation suggested.

This, together with the formal and informal socialization, influences the “surprise and sense making”. In our example this means my surprises when I first saw my work place and realized that the representation factor was only a minimum part of the work. This can be improved by RJPs as explained above.

According to Chao (1988), formal socialization practices can be divided into three aspects. First, the formal orientation program is used to give the newcomer an overview over the “organization´s history, products, and philosophy as well as the employee´s compensation, benefits, rights, and responsibilities” (Chao 1988, p. 37). At Disney is provided in the Traditions Class, where several content areas of socialization as history, language, organizational goals and values are covered (for further details see appendix). This part is what most literature refers to as the orientation itself.

Second, training and development programs try to contribute towards the matching of the newcomer to the organization. Training programs concentrate on job requirements, whereas development programs emphasize the individual employee, his weaknesses and strengths. Disney provides the possibility to take courses at Disney University, for example a bartender course or a trainers class, but most of it aims less at development than at training.

Third, job assignments, or debasement experiences, are used to “unfreeze the newcomer´s preconceptions about his or her role in the organization and to maximize the newcomer´s willingness to accept the organization´s authority” (Chao 1988, p. 38). The two major types of this strategy are sink-or-swim situations, where the newcomer is assigned a difficult task for which he needs to seek help, and the upending experience, where the newcomer is to perform a task that is guaranteed to fail. At my workplace this method was not used.

There are also other approaches to the formal socialization process, e.g. Wanous (1980, p. 169-179) describes this as socialization strategies and divides it into four parts: training, education, apprenticeship, debasement experiences and cooptation.

The informal socialization practices can have the most powerful influence on the newcomer. If the picture of organizational life the newcomer is presented by the organization is congruent to the picture held by the workforce, the informal socialization is a success. If not, the newcomer is more likely to adapt to the picture held by the work group, as this is “where emotional control is probably the most effective, for it is the stage managed by those with whom members must spend most of their time” (VanMaanen, cited in Novak 1996, p. 15).

At the Biergarten the cast-members had a different attitude than promoted by Disney in its orientation classes. This shall be discussed in chapter 2.4.

The influence of informal socialization is especially strong if newcomers are given little or no formal socialization. Then there are three sources of socialization: the newcomer´s superiors, colleagues, and subordinates, with the colleagues being the strongest force (see Chao 1988, p. 40-41).

All of these influence the socialization outcomes. There are positive outcomes, such as commitment, satisfaction, motivation, performance and tenure as well as negative outcomes like role strain, obsolete socialization and over-conformity. In the third chapter we will examine commitment as an example of the effects of socialization.

2.4 Organizational Culture

Culture can be defined as “the system of shared beliefs and values that develops within an organisation” (Wood 2000, p. 391). There are countless approaches to analyze culture. Wood , for example, divides culture in three core levels: Observable culture, shared values and common assumption.

Here I am going to examine Novak and Fine´s approach. They name two types of cultures in an organization: The “corporate culture” is the more formal part promoted by the management. On the other hand there is the “work group culture”, which is more the real culture of the company. These work cultures can differ from group to group and have a much higher influence on the newcomer´s socialization than the official culture.

Disney is a company with a very strong organizational culture, which is presented to newcomers in various classes like the Traditions Class mentioned above. This corporate culture that I got to know in the first two weeks after my arrival made me proud of working for this company.

The work group culture is the culture at the Biergarten, where I worked. There, most cast-members were less motivated, due to the mostly poor abilities of our supervisors, as well as the motivation strategies of Disney: The positive motivation was a so-called “Five Star”, a little card with Tinker Bell on it, that supervisors could give to cast members that had done something extraordinary. But as this was very subjective and did not have further benefits, it seemed ridiculous to most cast members. On the other hand there were a lot of negative motivation strategies, like the ever-present danger of being terminated, which was often emphasized

Thus there was hardly any congruency between corporate and work group culture, which resulted in me losing the motivation I had gained after the formal orientation, which supports Novaks statements.

3. Commitment

Commitment could be defined as a state of mind, where the person displays reliability, regards his work as important an makes decisions in favor of the organization. According to Kinlaw, ”commitment is evident in the focus that people exhibit toward a goal, and the surest measure of commitment is in the personal sacrifices that people are willing to achieve the goal” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 9). These two measures shall be described in 3.1. In chapter 3.2 I will discuss what aspects of socialization contributes to build commitment.

3.1 Measures of Commitment

Focus can also be described as “single-minded” or “focused on their work”. Kinlaw uses children at play as an example of real focus (see Kinlaw 1989, p. 6). We all know this feeling of time rushing by while we are focused on doing something we really enjoy.

He also states that “people are naturally predisposed to be committed to quality”. This means that a worker who is focused on his work will produce quality - even despite poor systems. Therefore Kinlaw assumes that all managers have to do is to “free people so that they can exercise their commitment to quality without fear” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 7).

Even though Disney´s motivation system did not work very well in the Biergarten, a lot of cast members were focused on their work of making the guests happy. Even though I did not receive benefits for it, it just made me happy to make other people happy. This is why Disney works so well: the cast members can produce happiness in others - something that most people like. But Disney could do a lot more to “free” the cast members.

At a workplace, personal sacrifices will mostly be extra working hours. One prerequisite for these sacrifices is meaning. “People will not invest themselves in a task if it does not connect to their values” and “personal worth” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 8). Therefore they have to be aware of the company´s objectives and operations, to understand “what they do to some larger whole” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 9).

At Disney this larger whole was to make the guest happy. Disney managed to make the new cast members believe in this final goal instead of explaining that actually money was the goal - therefore they were very good at communicating their “objectives”. In addition to this, Disney was selecting people willing to commit themselves to this goal. In the Biergarten the supervisors often did not do the weekly schedule correctly and only found out on the morning of the day that some positions were not scheduled at all. But they could always find someone else doing this work by staying longer.

It should not be forgotten that these sacrifices also result in more money. Therefore, if using sacrifices as a measure of commitment, it should be carefully examined.

3.2 How to produce Commitment

Kinlaw describes “four supports of commitment”.

Clarity means to communicate “the strategic goals and core values of the organization downward through each level” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 11). This is necessary because, as mentioned above, commitment is based on the congruency of personal and organizational values. If a cast member does not know that making the guests happy is the core value of Disney, he will not be able to focus his own work on achieving this aim. Disney was very good at this.

Clarity can be achieved during the recruitment process, for example by giving RJPs. The formal orientation also has an impact, because this is when the newcomer is introduced to his duties. Furthermore the informal socialization influences clarity by teaching the newcomer the actual values of his work group. Finally, the newcomer´s sense making gives him clarity of the actual situation, e.g. the size of his office.

Nobody likes to fail. Therefore, to provide positive experiences that will build commitment, managers have to ensure that people have the competencies to do their work.

The newcomer should already have parts of the necessary competencies from his or her anticipatory socialization. The specific competency for the new workplace can be provided during the formal orientation, as well as during further training and development means. The informal socialization can complete the more basic knowledge learned during formal orientation.

“Influence breeds ownership, and ownership breeds commitment” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 14). The study of Novak and Fine supports this statement. Workers at Saturn are a lot more committed to their work because they can influence the equipment used. At Disney we actually could not take influence on the company, but Disney was effective in emphasizing that the cast was “part of the magic” and the real heart of Disney World. Therefore it can be said that the feeling of influence, not the influence itself, is the main point.

This feeling of influence can already be given to the newcomer on the day of recruitment by asking for his opinions. This should be continued during the formal and informal socialization. The latter one can only be positive when the staff really has the feeling of influence, whereas the other two can just be something the management says.

Everyone wants to be appreciated. But there are several possibilities of making appreciation even more effective. Kinlaw suggests to “make it personal”, “do something creative”, and “to make it public” (Kinlaw 1989, p. 18).

Disney provides some appreciation features. One of them is the Five Star mentioned above. Another is the “cast member of the month” or being sent to the trainers class. The problem in the Biergarten with these was the way our supervisors handled it. For example our supervisors just sent people to the trainers class they liked, no matter whether they were talented for training.

During the process of socialization appreciation can be given at nearly every point. The recruitment itself is some kind of appreciation. The formal socialization can, like Disney does in the Traditions Class, emphasize that it is a great thing to be hired by this company. The informal socialization can also provide appreciation and is maybe a stronger force than the formal one as it usually occurs much more often.

In addition to this it can be stated that a healthy organizational climate has a major impact on the informal socialization: if committed cast members train the newcomers at Disney, it is likely that they will pass on their commitment.

Wanous describes another approach to building commitment. His theory starts with making the newcomer expend a lot of effort and time. One benefit from this is that the job the person spends so much time with becomes increasingly attractive, just because humans “need to rationalize (of justify) the choices they make (Aronson cited in Wanous 1980, p. 171).

At the same time they expect something in return for their effort. This can be provided by the organization as the conferring of status. This means that the newcomer is given the feeling of being one of a chosen few. Disney uses this technique extensively and relies nearly completely on it.

Another method is to provide plentiful unlimited supply of hygienes (PLUSH) like parking facilities, generous photocopying budgets etc. Disney, for example, provides a comparatively good health-cover-system.

The effect of this whole approach is to generate a feeling of obligation to the company within the newcomer and by this making him stay.

4. Conclusion

We have seen that the organizational socialization can have a big influence on commitment, especially for newcomers.

For Disney it can be said that it has a lot of socialization means realized, but at the same time we saw some difficulties with their approach. The major reason for these problem seems to be the implementation by the supervisors.

Finally, there is one more aspect we have neglected so far: The interaction between the organization and the newcomer (see Jones 1983). The same socialization means may work for one type of newcomer whereas they will have mostly negative effects on another person. For example the orientation established at Disney worked fairly well to motivate Americans, whereas Europeans were harder to motivate by things like “Five Stars” or “cast member of the month” and were more critical about this. It can be concluded that commitment and other outcomes “are not the direct result of socialization practices. They arise from the complex interplay of factors at many levels of analysis” (Jones 1983, p. 473). Therefore the organizations also have to take the different personalities of their newcomers into account.

3300 words


Chao, Georgia T. 1988 The Socialization Process: Building Newcomer Commitment in: London, Manuel; Mone, Edward M. 1988 Career Growth and Human Resource Strategies: The Role of the Human Resource Professional in Employee Development Quorum Books, New York, Westport, London.

Chao, Georgia T.; O´Leary-Kelly, Anne M.; Wolf, Samantha; Klein, Howard J.; Gardner, Philip D. 1994 Organizational Socialization: Its Content and Consequences in: Journal of Applied Psychology 1994, Vol. 79, No. 5, p. 730-743.

Dessler, Gary 1999 Human Resource Management Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall

Harris, David M.; DeSimone, Randy L. 1994 Human Resource Development The Dryden Press, Fort Worth.

Jones, Gareth R. 1983 Psychological Orientation and the Process of Organizational Socialization : An Interactionist Perspective in: Academy of Management Review 1983, Vol. 8, Vo. 3, p. 463-474.

Kinlaw, Dennis C. 1989 Coaching for Commitment: Managerial Strategies for Obtaining Superior Performance, University Associates Inc., San Diego.

Novak, Sharon; Fine, Charles H. 1996 Culture Clash: The Corporate Socialization Process meets Non-Congruent Organization Subcultures Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Stone, R.J. 1998 Human Resource Management (3rd edition), John Wiley and Sons, Milton, Queensland.

Wanous, John P. 1980 Organizational Entry: Recruitment, Selection, and Socialization of Newcomers. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc., Massachusetts.

Wood, Wallace, Zeffane, Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborne 2000 Organisational Behaviour: a global perspective, John Wiley and Sons, Milton, Queensland.


Content Areas of Socialization

In her earlier publication on this topic, Chao suggests that there are two content areas in which the learning occurs: The first one focuses on the “necessary knowledge, skill, and abilities” (Chao 1988, p. 32) whereas the second one deals with “learning about the way the organization functions in terms of its culture” (Chao 1988, p. 32). If this is applied to Disney, the fist aspect of socialization would include to learn about the location, the tasks I had to perform, etc. The second one would mean an adaption to the culture of Disney World, which includes its philosophy of friendly service.

Chao et al (1994) suggest a much more differentiated view: they define six specific content areas in which the organization influences the individual´s socialization.

The fist dimension of socialization is Performance Proficiency. Applied to Disney this means the being taught what to do in the Biergarten, where I worked. If I had not learned all the tasks there would have been no chance of succeeding, no matter how motivated I would have been.

People means that my socialization included getting to know the other cast members, making friends, and becoming a part of this group. These processes are shaped by shared interests, personality traits, and group dynamics.

Politics resembles the exploration of “formal and informal work relationships and power structures” (Chao et al 1994, p. 732): Knowing who is my supervisor, who is his boss, who has the competency to tell me what to do etc.

Language is another dimension. This can mean the profession´s technical language as well as the organization´s slang. Staff at Disney World is not referred to as “staff” but as “cast members”. Also terms like “back-to-back” (several days off), or “Company D” (a shop for cast members) differentiate the outsider from an insider to this culture.

The fifth dimension of socialization is Organizational Goals and Values. According to Chao et al´s research, this dimension had “the strongest relationships with measures of career effectiveness” (Chao et al 1994, p. 741) such as performance, attitude, adaptability, and identity. Typical Values for Disney are friendly customer service, making the guest happy, making the guest returning to Disney World, bringing all their friends. This dimension also contains the major part of what can be defined as organizational culture, which is examined in chapter 2.4.

Finally, History means an organization´s “traditions, customs, myths, and rituals” (Chao et al 1994, p. 732). Disney tries to develop pride of the company´s history in its newcomers. Part of the orientation program is a “Traditions Class”, where newcomers are told stories about Walt Disney, his visions, as well as stories of outstanding cast members.

15 of 15 pages


Organisational Socialisation and its Effect on Commitment
University of South Australia
Managing Human Resources
Credit = 2
Catalog Number
File size
422 KB
Organisational, Socialisation, Effect, Commitment, Managing, Human, Resources
Quote paper
Sabine Haecker (Author), 2002, Organisational Socialisation and its Effect on Commitment, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 6/30/2002

    aktueller Forschungsstand.

    Hallo Sabine,

    ich habe mich sehr gefreut über dieses Thema einen Aufsatz zu finden. Da ich meine Diplomarbeit über ein ähnliches Thema schreibe interessiert es mich natürlich besonders. Deshalb habe ich eine Frage/ Bitte an Dich: Hast Du vielleicht noch sonstiges Material/Literatur oder Tips zum Thema Berufsanfänger/ organisationale Sozialisation? Vielleicht auch in deutsch? Oder weißt Du etwas zum aktuellen Forschungsstand? Es wäre für mich eine sehr große Hilfe.
    Wenn Du magst, dann melde Dich doch unter meiner angegebenen e-mail Adresse.

    liebe Grüße

Read the ebook
Title: Organisational Socialisation and its Effect on Commitment

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free