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My Department or My Company? Group Status, Identity Configurations, and Citizenship Behaviors

Journal Article
Organizations consist of multiple groups nested at different levels, meaning organization members have choices about where to identify and to contribute. The authors examine whether subgroup status shapes identity configurations, or the pattern of members’ identifications across multiple organizational groups. A military field study used status differences across battalions within brigades to reveal that soldiers from high status battalions identified more with their battalions whereas those from low status battalions identified more with the brigade. Total strength of identification combined across battalion and brigade was associated with citizenship behaviors contributing to both organizational groups. Similarly, a university study found students from high status colleges identified more with their particular colleges, whereas those from low status colleges identified more with the university. Further, students from high status colleges were more likely to choose citizenship behaviors serving their college and those from low status colleges were more likely to serve the university. Linking subgroup status, identity configurations, and citizenship behaviors provides insights into what guides individuals’ choices on where to identify, offers new reasons to consider the importance of identity configurations within organizations, and leads to new suggestions for organizational leaders.