My topic: Identity Discrepancies

It just occurred to me (well, was pointed out to me) that I never really explained my PhD topic.  So this week’s tardy blog post is dedicated to me trying to turn what I’m studying into plain English.  The sad thing about doing a PhD is that sometimes you lose the forest for the trees; you’re so caught up in the detail of the theory and analysis you forget the big picture. I’ll do my best.

Identity Discrepancies

In a nutshell, I’m looking into what happens when you believe that your co-workers see you incorrectly. That is, when you think that they just don’t see you for who you ‘really’ are.  This has happened to me quite a bit throughout my career, and to put it simply – it’s ticked me off.  It’s that experience when others at work put a label on you, and you think it’s the wrong one. A quick overview:

identity disrepancies

Also,  a few examples to explain what I mean:

  • The age identity discrepancy: many, many times in my career I’ve been considered to be ‘the young one’ at work. Maybe I actually was the young one, but that doesn’t matter. Despite how many successes I had, or how competent I was, I always felt that my coworkers treated me like a kid. (yes, I know, I’ll whinge about the opposite in a few years I’m sure). 
  • The gender identity discrepancy: Women face this quite a bit in business – particularly in male dominated organizations, boards, or just at any level of senior leadership really.  You just cant seem to rid that big invisible “woman” sign that seems to be plastered on your forehead in the office.
  • The competency discrepancy:  I’m sure there’s a lot of us out there who believe that at work, we’re just not seen to be as competent as we think we are (of course I dont fit into that category…).  We think our bosses, and the powers that be just don’t recognise our real capability, and so they’re holding us down.
  • The “insert your own” identity discrepancy: Who hasn’t been labelled incorrectly at some point in their careers..

Importantly thought, not all ‘incorrect labelling’ is a bad thing. There might be times when you think that others see you in a more positive light than you see yourself. Perhaps you think you’re not up to the job and you’re offered a big promotion. In this case, the outcomes could be positive or negative, depending on how you interpret it.

Who cares, really?

I know, it’s a pretty specific thing I’m investigating – that’s what you do for a PhD, you get really, painfully, specific.  Why it matters to individuals and to organizations is that I’m exploring what kind of impact these discrepancies have on things like engagement, trust, emotion, well-being and turnover at work. Lots of interesting results are forthcoming about the potentially damaging – or motivating –  impact these dynamics have on people (well, I hope at least a bit interesting or my PhD will be pretty tough to finish off).  I’ll not go into any more specifics for now, but that’s the gist of it.  Make sense?


About aly

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This entry was posted in Fun with Psychology, Organization Behaviour, Professional identity, Self Identity. Bookmark the permalink.

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