Over-identification With One’s Corporate Identity

I was at a social gathering a few years ago.  Chuck was speaking in a small circle. At the time, Chuck was working for a large corporation in Fairfield County. I noticed that he kept on saying “we” when he referred to what the large company that he worked for was doing.  ”We” are developing a new product line.  ”We” are opening a plant in India.  ”We” are buying ABC Corporation. 

Chuck had worked at this large company for about 15 years.  He was in the upper half of middle management.  In terms of climbing the ladder, he had done very well.  But, I found it odd that he had identified himself as “we” in relation to doing things that had nothing to do with his work.  Chuck was a manager in an area that had nothing to do with the product line, the new plant, and the company acquisition he referenced.  But, in his mind, he was “we.”

20 years ago, this mentality made more sense.  Lifers at companies had reason to feel so strongly identified with their employers.  Today, not so much.

I bring this story up because I just heard that Chuck was let go from the corporation.  I don’t know the details but I think it was one of those impersonal cuts of divisions that have little to do with the performance of individuals.

That’s challenging in all the ways that losing one’s job is challenging.  But, Chuck has another psychological hurdle to overcome.  He is no longer “we” and that must really hurt. 

In my career counseling work, I’ve noticed that those that were hired well before The Great Recession and remained unaffected by the economic downturn are most prone to over identify with the entity that pays them money.  I’m all for company morale building and feeling that one is part of something bigger than oneself.  But, unless you are in the inner core of your organization’s decision making, you are not “we”.