Perceived similarities make it easier for newbies to adjust. But how?…

Topic: Diversity, Work Environment, Culture, Creativity
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (APR 2011)
Article:Perceived similarity, proactive adjustment, and organizational socialization
Authors: J. D. Kammeyer-Mueller, B. A. Livingston, & H. Liau
Reviewed by: Charleen Maher

Organizational newcomers carry the stress of adjusting to their new jobs, working with new people, and learning the ins and outs of a new organization. Previous research has shown that when organizational newcomers engage in proactive adjustment behaviors (e.g. feedback seeking, relationship building), they are more likely to be committed to their new organizations and are more likely to be accepted by their coworkers.

This study sought to find out if perceived similarity to one’s new work group leads to more proactive adjustment behaviors and, in turn, has an effect on important work outcomes (e.g. creative performance, organizational citizenship behaviors). The authors examined the following aspects of perceived similarity: surface-level (similarity in age, education, race, gender) and deep-level (similar work style).  So, what is the relationship between perceived similarity and proactive adjustment behaviors?

Perceived similarity in age, race, gender, and education predicted perceived similarity in work-style. Similarity in age actually decreased the chances that organizational newcomers would engage in proactive feedback seeking.  Similarity in education increased the likelihood that newcomers would socialize with coworkers. 

Similarity in gender increased the likelihood of relationship building behaviors with supervisors; however, age similarity with supervisors decreased the chances of engaging in relationship building.

In terms of work outcomes, general socializing and proactive supervisor relationship building lead to more organizational citizenship behaviors. Proactive relationship building with coworkers and supervisors also lead to more creative performance (e.g. suggesting new ways of doing things).

For organizations or work groups with newcomers, it is important to recognize the limitation that age similarity brings. This study suggests that newcomers are hesitant to proactively seek feedback from coworkers who are similar in age and build relationships with their new supervisors. This can result in less creative performance and OCBs. Organizations should encourage these proactive adjustment behaviors among all newcomers, recognizing that learning about an organization is important during the first few weeks or months in the new environment and the best learning can often some from asking for feedback and building relationships.

Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D., Livingston, B. A., & Liau, H. (2011). Perceived similarity, proactive adjustment, and organizational socialization. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78(2), 225-236