Topic: Organizational Identification

Author(s), Title and Publication

Myers, S. A., & Kassing, J. W. (1998). The Relationship Between Perceived Supervisory Communication Behaviors and Subordinate Organizational Identification. Communication Research Reports, 15(1), 71-81.


According to the theory of unobtrusive control, modern organizations control their internal environments by biasing employees towards making organizationally favorable decisions. Organizational identification is one of the primary methods used to control employees. When members identify with their organization, they tend to make decisions based on what they believe to be the best for their organization. This study examined the impact of subordinate perceptions of supervisors’ communication skills (i.e., communicator competence, general communicative adaptability, and interaction involvement) on subordinate level of identification (i.e., membership, loyalty, and similarity). A survey was conducted with 135 undergraduate students at a large Midwestern university; all of the students had worked at a summer job.

Results revealed that compared to those less attached to their organizations, subordinates who highly identified with organizations viewed their supervisors as being more competent communicators and having a higher rate of interaction involvement. Previous studies suggested that employees might accept organizational decisions when they made sacrifices, received rewards or benefits, or perceived legitimate power within the organization. This study suggested a fourth reason: when employees engage in supportive conversations with supervisors, they think and act more favorably towards their organizations. A supervisor’s general communicative adaptability was not related to a subordinate’s organizational identification, indicating that employees might identify with organizationally deemed competent behaviors more so than with generalized interpersonal skills.

Implications for Practice

An organization might enhance employees’ identification if supervisors: 1) communicate with subordinates in a considerate and competent fashion by responding to subordinate concerns and being highly involved with them, 2) communicate in an informal manner, and 3) align communication closely with organizational values.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (free abstract, first page preview, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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