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Relational Perspectives in Organizational Studies

A Research Companion

Edited by Olympia Kyriakidou and Mustafa F. Özbilgin

The contributors to this highly innovative and authoritative research companion, leading experts in their field, apply relational analyses to different areas of organization studies and provide a comprehensive review of the relational perspectives. The book features empirical, theoretical, philosophical and methodological contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplinary perspectives on relationality in and around organizations.
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Chapter 2: Relational Identities in Organizations: Healthy versus Unhealthy

Blake E. Ashforth and David M. Sluss


Blake E. Ashforth and David M. Sluss Introduction Most of the vast literature on organizational behavior focuses on the individual, the group, and/or the organization, effectively marginalizing interpersonal relationships. This is a curious development, given the fundamental embeddedness of individuals in dense networks of interpersonal relationships and the rich role that such relationships play in the experience and performance of work and in subsequent attitudes toward an organization. To be sure, research in such areas as mentoring, role theory, leader–member exchange, trust in organizations, and social networks has yielded rich insights into specific aspects of interpersonal connections, but these efforts have not coalesced into an integrative framework of organization-based relationships per se. Fortunately however there appears to be growing interest in the central role of interpersonal relationships in organizational life (for example Dutton, 2003; Fletcher, 2004; Kahn, 1998; Wrzesniewski et al., 2003). Our chapter focuses on how the identities that individuals derive from their various role-based interpersonal relationships – their ‘relational identities’ – may affect the ‘health’ of the relationships (defined below). We argue that healthy relationships may easily tip into unhealthy relationships and that means of redressing the latter are difficult to enact. We begin by defining our key terms, relational identity and relational health. We then examine how relational health may be put at risk by three common manifestations of relational identities: (1) multiplex relationships; (2) relational overidentification and underidentification; and (3) relational identity transference. We close by considering the...

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