Psychology Faculty Research


On the Front Lines: Stakeholder Threat Cues Determine How Identified Employees Cope with Scandal.

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Publication Date

Winter 1-19-2015


When organizational identity is threatened as a result of scandal, highly identified members who represent the threatened organization to stakeholders have a particularly challenging and overlooked experience. Addressing a theoretical paradox, we propose that organizational identification interacts with the threat cues from stakeholders to determine employee responses. We conducted a multimethod, in vivo test of these ideas with university fundraising employees after events threatened the university’s moral identity. Interview and archival data demonstrated that stakeholders expressed identity threat to fundraisers, who experienced their own identity-related distress and engaged in both group-dissociative and group-affirming responses. Surveys of professional and student university fundraisers demonstrated that more identified employees were more distressed (e,g., felt anxious, grief, betrayed) regardless of stakeholder threat cues. Yet, when employees perceived weak threat cues from stakeholders, more identified members were less likely to dissociate from the group and more likely to affirm the group’s positive identity with stakeholders. These benefits of identification were not present when the stakeholder threat cues were strong. We discuss future research and practical implications of front-line employee identification and stakeholder cues during scandal.

Publication Title

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology





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