A Research Companion
Edited by Olympia Kyriakidou and Mustafa F. Özbilgin
Chapter 2: Relational Identities in Organizations: Healthy versus Unhealthy
2 Relational identities in organizations: healthy versus unhealthy 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)...
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