Inclusion through optimal distinctiveness: local workgroup identification in a global organisation

2017-02-07T22:53:49Z (GMT) by Lindsay, Sarah
In large subsidiaries of a multinational enterprise (MNE), workgroups typically provide the mechanism to channel individual action towards attaining organisational goals. However, individual membership in subsidiary workgroups and outcomes stemming from subsidiary workgroup membership have received little attention in international human resource management (IHRM) research to date. The research at hand addresses that gap and investigates how the cultural/national background of the subsidiary workgroup supervisor impacts on employee workgroup identification, and resultant attitudes and behaviour. This research also responds to calls for a more nuanced understanding of subsidiary workers. The thesis takes a geocentric view by proposing that workers in MNE subsidiaries today expect both a local and a global dimension to their workplace. The extent to which this expectation is met will impact workgroup identification and subsequently inform attitudes and behaviour. As a first step in exploring this geocentric view, the thesis focuses on subsidiary workers as professional white-collar workers operating in a developed economic environment. Drawing from social identity theory, including the construct of optimal distinctiveness, the argument is made that individuals in subsidiary workgroups have dual needs for both inclusion and distinctiveness. The workgroup is associated with the need for inclusion; the national/cultural background of the workgroup supervisor, or supervisor outgroup categorisation, is associated with the counter need for distinctiveness. It is proposed that when these dual needs are met, optimal distinctiveness is enhanced, resulting in changes to attitudes and behaviour. However, as supervisor group prototypicality increases, it is expected that the influence of supervisor outgroup categorisation on attitudes and behaviour weakens. Due to their importance in MNE subsidiaries, turnover intention and workgroup knowledge sharing are investigated as an attitude and behaviour influenced by workgroup identification. The aim of the current research therefore, is to investigate supervisor categorisation and prototypicality as influential on turnover intention and workgroup knowledge sharing through workgroup identification. The sample for this study is comprised of 306 participants from an Australasian subsidiary of a MNE headquartered in Europe. Data collection occurred in May 2011 through an online survey. Four hypotheses are addressed in the research. Each hypothesis is supported. The results show that workgroup identification is enriched by the presence of a distinctive element in the form of a national/cultural outgroup supervisor, flowing on to decreased turnover intention and increased knowledge sharing among workgroup members. In addition, the more a supervisor is perceived as prototypical of the group, the weaker the effect of supervisor outgroup categorisation on both turnover intention and knowledge sharing. There are two major implications of this study arising for IHRM. First, this research indicates the workgroup is a salient social identity in MNE subsidiaries and workgroup identification is a predictor of attitudes and behaviour important in this environment. This implies a need to carefully structure and manage subsidiary workgroups. Second, the research suggests that the national/cultural background of the supervisor provides an opportunity for an enriched organisational experience. The IHRM practice of localising subsidiary workplaces may paradoxically hamper workgroup identification and valuable attitudes and behaviour that flow from identification.