Wear Different Hats at Work? How You Think About Them May Just Affect Your Performance

Some days you're the manager.  Some days you're the employee.  And some days you just don't feel like coming in to work at all.

Sound like you?

A new study has found that struggling with those different identities at work may just affect your job performance.

According to newswise.com, employees who believe their different identities enhance each other are more productive than others, the study found. But workers who feel their identities are in conflict see a hit to their performance.

 “We tend to think of our work role identities one at a time, as if they were completely separate,” says Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. “But this research shows that the interactions are important. The way we manage and think about our different roles could be affecting how well we do our jobs.”

People are familiar with the concept of identity conflict and enhancement, the web site reports. There’s been a lot written about the tensions between the roles of women who are both mothers and employees, for example.

 But this research suggests that people can have issues dealing with different identities within the workplace, Wilk notes.  Companies need to be more attuned to what roles they ask their employees to take on.
 “If your employees feel they have to make trade-offs between different role identities in the workplace, they may not do as good a job,” she points out.

 That’s what researchers found when they studied 763 employees of a company that managed customer service for credit cards associated with a number of well-known brands in retail and financial services, among others.

 In this case, employees had to juggle their identities representing very different brands.

Was being a representative for a particular clothing company’s credit card opposed to – or compatible with – the work they had to do for the  particular bank’s credit card? Would identity conflict hurt their sales – and would compatibility help?

 Employees were asked in a survey to name the two brands they worked with most. They then rated how much they agreed with a variety of statements. These statements measured if their identification with the two brands was in conflict (“Life would be easier if I represented only one of these brands and not another”) or if working with both brands enhanced each other (“I am a better representative of one brand because I am also a representative for the other brand”).

Results showed that employees whose responses implied identity conflict between their two brands had lower-than-average sales for the four months after they took the survey, while those who indicated their brands enhanced each other had better-than-average sales.

 “There are real-world effects for not being able to successfully juggle your identities,” Wilk says. “Your performance can suffer, as we found in this call center.”


  1. Great comment this is very helpful content.


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