Van Maanen, J. and E. H. Schein (1979). "Toward of Theory of Organizational Socialization." Research in Organizational Behavior, 1: 209-264.

What people learn about their work roles in organizations is often a direct result of how they learn it. p. 209


"From the time individuals first enter a workplace to the time they leave their membership behind, they experience and often commit themselves to a distinct way of life, complete with itw own rhythms, rewards, relationships, demands, and potentials. p. 210


Since a process of socialization involves the transmission of information and values, it is fundamentally a cultural matter. p. 210


An organizational culture consists broadly of long-standing rules of thumb, a somewhat special language, an ideology that helps edit a member's everyday experience, shared standards of relevance as to the prejudices, models for social etiquette and demeanor, certain customs and rituals suggestive of how members are to relate to colleagues, subordinates, superiors, and outsiders, and a sort of residual category of some rather plain "horse sense" regarding what is appropriate and "smart" modes of thinking, feeling, and doing are, of course, fragmented to some degree, giving rise within large organizations to various "subcultures" or "organizational seqments". p. 210


One learned these responses are viewed by insiders as perfectually "natural" responses to the world of work they inhabit. Organizational cultures arise and are maintained as a way of coping with and making sense of a given problematic environment. p. 210.


New employees.... may question old assumptions about how the work is to be performed, be ignorant of some rather sacred interpersonal conventions that define authority relationships within the workplace, or fail to properly appreciate the work ideology or organizational mandate shared by the more expereinced members present on the scene. p. 211


New members must be taught to see the organizational world as do their more experienced colleagues if the traditions of the organization are to survive. The manner in which this teaching/learning occurs is referred to here as the organizational socialization process. p. 211


Organizational socialization is the process by which people "learn the ropes" of a particular organizational role. It can range from a quick trial and error method to a long process of education and apprenticeship. p. 211


Organizational socialization refers the the fashion in which an individual is taught and learns what behaviors and perspectives are customary and desirable within the work setting as well as what ones are not. p. 211-212.


Socialization entales the learning of a cultural perspective that can be brought to bear on both commonplace and unusual matters going on in the workplace. p. 212 It provides the individual with an ordered view of the work life that runs ahead and guides experience, orders and shapes personal relationships in the work setting, and provides the ground rules under which everyday conduct is to be managed. p. 212


Note that not all learning will be immediately adjustive or adaptive for an individual, because cultural forms often persist long after they have ceased to be of individual value. p. 212-213 What may be adjustive to the individual may not be adaptive to the organization. A new employee in a tough first asignement may find the most adjustive strategy for him is to leave the company, a move not very adaptive to the organization. p. 213.


Socialization practices must not therefore be taken for granted or, worse, ignored on the basis that all cultural learning is fundamentally functional. p. 213 Not all aspects of a culture are useful at an individual or collective level.


A period of socialization accompanies each move, from outside to inside and with each move in rank. p. 213


II. Background and Underlying Assmuptions


Observers of organizations have failed to give systematic attention to the problem of how specific bits of culture are transmitted within an organization. p. 213


An interellated theory of socialization should:

* tell us where to look to find socialization

* describe the various forms of socialization can take

* explain why a particular form of socialization occuring in an organization tends to result in certain kinds of individual or collective outcomes rather than others. p. 214



1. Individuals undergoing any organizational transition are in an anxiety-producing situation. They try to reduce this anxiety by learning function and social requirements as quickly as possible. p. 214. They feel isolated, lonely, and have performance anxieties. They have trouble identifying with the activities around them. p. 215


2. Organizational socialization and the learning that is associated with it does not occur in a social vacuum strictly on the basis of the official and available versions of the new role requirements. They learn from everyone around them and get their performance feedback from them.


3. The stability and productivity of any organization depends in large measure upon the ways newcomers to various positions come eventually to carry out their tasks p. 215.


4. The way in which individuals adjust to novel circumstances is remarkably similar. There is still likely to be some "reality shock" in store. (Hughes, Men and Their Work, 1958). p. 215


5. There is no functional assumption that organizations must socialize people to roles. They are symbolic interactionists that believe individuals create and sustain beliefs. What is function for one person is disfunctional for another. p. 216


6. A theory should not be specific to certain people, organizations, or roles. The authors try to indentify the likely effects upon individuals who have been processed into a general organizational location through certain identified means. They are concerned with the effects of "people processing" devices.


III. The organizational setting: segments and boundaries


An organization that "any group of people who interact regularly over an extended period of time will develop a sort of unexplicated or tacit mandate concerning what is correct and proper... p. 217


Organizations are arenas of series of negotiations about what people will do the culminates in role definitions. They may not be formal, but they are stable and passed on from role-taker to role-taker.


"An organization is little more than a situated activity space in which various individuals come together and based their efforts upon a somewhat shared, but continually problematic, verion of what it is they are to do, both collectively and individually." p. 218


Organizationally defined roles can be functional, hierarchical, and inclusiveness. Inclusiveness is how near the "center of things" one is. It includes the social rules, normal and values through which a person's worthiness to a group is judged by members of that group. Newcomers begin on the edge until they can prove an understanding and acceptance of the groups norms and values. The newcomers are often formally or informally tested as to their abilities, motives, and values before being granted inclusionary rights which permit them to share organizational secrets, to separate rhetoric used for outsiders vs that for insiders, understand the unofficial yet recognized norms associated with actual work. p. 222


One continuum would be from outsider to newcomer to confderate to confidant to central figure. p. 222 One can model the three perspectives as a 3-D shape. p. 223




1. Socialization is more intense and problematic when crossing boundaries.

2. The individual's influence upon the organization occurs when far from boudary crossings.

3. Socialization is more important at lower-level positions. p. 224-225


IV. Individual Responses to Organizational Socialization Role Components -- Knowledge, Stretegy, and Mission


A role is a "bundle of tasks" p 226 It's a set of diverse behaviors that are more or less expected of persons who occupy a certain defined position within an organization. p. 226 If the role expectations are met people get rewards, if not, punishment. Roles have content and process characteristics.


Organizationally define roles have:

1. A content or knowledge base, which if accepted, suggests the range of existing solutions to the given problems encountered regularly on the job.


2. A strategic base which specifies the ground rules for the choosing of particular solutions.


3. An explicit or implicit mission, purpose, or mandate which also defines the relationship of the role to other roles within and outside the organization. p. 227 The missions serve to justify and legitimate the ends pursued by the role occupants. p. 227


Responses to Socialization


1. Custodialship of role, by accepting the status quo. Why "rock the boat"? p. 228


But sometimes a newcomer doesn't want to limit himself to existing role-defined knowledge. Schein defines it as "content innovation". A "reformer".


One step further the newcomer may want to redefine the mission of the role, including the norms governing conduct and performance. "rebel" or "guerrila" p. 229


So a newcomer can either become a "caretaker" on one extreme or an "innovator" on the other (where they reject the expected mission of the role or knowledge content of the role). p. 229


The authors believe there are particular forms of socialization that can enhance or retard the likelihood of an innovative or custodial response to an organizationall defined role. independent of individual attributes or environmental situation. p. 230


V. People Processing -- The Tactical Dimensions of Organizational Socialization and their Effects

"Tactics of organizational socialization" refer to way in which the experiences of individuals in transition from one role to another are structured for them by other in the organization.. p. 230


The selection of teaching methods (formal or informal) are come from history or tradition. They might arise from latent premises or assumptions. Certain tactics may more likely produce a custodial or innovative response. p. 230


People respond to particular organizationally defined roles differently not only because people and organizations and people are different but because socialization processes are different. p. 231


Tactics can be consciously or uncousciously applied, and can happen simultaneously.


The six dimensions are:


1. Collective vs individual socialization processes

2. Formal vs informal

3. Sequential vs variable

4. Fixed vs variable

5. Serial vs disjunctive

6. Investiture vs diversiture


Collective vs Individual Socialization Processes

Collective socialization refers to the tactic of taking a group of recruits and putting them through a common set of experiences together. Examples are basic training, boot camp, pledging, graduate school, sales training,


Individual socialization would include apprenticeships, internships, OJT. p. 233


Differences are like batch vs unit styles of production.


Socialization of groups reflect the "in the same boat" consciousness. They develop a consensus. They often learn or affect each other more than the socilization agents. Collective tactics result in "subworld" complete with its own set of experiences and understandings. p. 233


Individual strategies induce personal change, but far less homogeneously than collective change. They are dependent more on the relationship between socialization agent and recruit. p. 234 Often their "agent" becomes a role model that they emulate. Police departments and craft trades use individual tactics.


Individual socialization processes are more associated with complex roles. They are often followed when the collective identity is viewed as less important than learning individual specifics of the role.


Collective socialization occurs when there are many recruits for the same role, where the content can be clearly specified, and where the organization wants to build a collective sense of identity, solidarity, and loyalty within the cohort group being socialized. p. 235.


Overall, individual processes are more expensive in time and money. p. 235


1. Collective socialization most likely across functional or external boundaries, and where training or orientation is required before even the simplest of role functions can be accomplished.


2. Individual socialization more likely across hierarchical boundaries, where preparation for promotion requires complex learning of skills, values, etc. It is also used to progress people into deeper levels of integration.


3. Collective socialization is more likely to produce custodial orientation, because the group perspective is a constraint upon the individual. Yet collective processes provide a potential base for recruit resistance.


There is a dilemma to the collective strategy. The managers want people to work as hard as possible but the co-workers don't want a "rate-buster". Recruits will usually follow the dicta of those who they spend the most time. "Beating the system" is more likely in collective socialization than in individualized one where an agent is close at hand. p. 236


4. Individual socialization is most likely to produce the specific outcomes desires by the socialization agent.


Formal vs Infomal Socialization Processes


Formal socialization refers to those practices in which a newcomer is more or less segregated from regular organizational members while being put through a set of experiences tailored explicitly for the newcomer. Formal processes leave no doubt as the recruits place in the organization. These include things like academies, professional schools, internships, etc.


Informal socialization processes do not distinguish the newcomer's role specifically, This tactic is more lassez-faire where recruits learn through trial-and-error. OJT is usually informal. Its often any situation where the newcomer is accepted from the outset as at least a proverbial member of a work group and is not placed into the recruit role by specific labels, uniforms, assignments, or other symbolic devices. p. 237


The more formal the process, the more concern there is likely to be shown for the recruit's absorption of the appropriate behavior associated with the target role. p. 237


Since it may be hard to carry over formal socialization processes to the workplace, they usually focus more on attitude than act. They also are a time where others can evaluate their potential and "fit" with the organization. Often the sacrifice needed in the formal process is effective preparation for the newcomers eventual role.


Learning through experience is very different. Recruits often select their own socialization agent. They must force others in the setting to teach them. p. 238 Mistakes affect "real work" and be more costly to socialization progress.




1. Formal socialization more associated with hierarchical and inclusionary passages where the newcomer is expected to assume a new status or rank and attitudes and demeanor it requires. Informal socialization is more likely to be used when the newcomer must learn new skills or practical abilities. p. 239 After a formal process there is usually an informal process.


Formal processes are also used when the gap across boundaries (especially cultural differences) is large.


2. Formal socialization tactics more likely when the nature of work involve high levels of risk for newcomer, others, organization, and clients.


3. Formal socialization is more likely to produce a custodial orientation. p. 240 But often once out of the formal process recruits may "unlearn" the standard values or actions they were taught. Sometimes if the gap between formal and informal is large, recruits may disregard all their formal learnings.


4. Informal socialization may produce more extreme responses in either custodial or innovative. Individual and informal are potentially more powerful techniques to shape work behavior because they involve on-the-job contingencies as well as teaching by people who are doing. p. 240.


Sequential vs Random Steps in the Socialization Process


Sequential socialization refers to the degree the occupation specifies a given sequence of steps leading to the target role. Random socialization occurs when the steps are ambiguous or chaning. Becoming a doctor is often sequential, while becoming a general manger is often random. Technical training may be sequential, while management training disjointed. In the random case, what is learned may be what is liked.


Often the agents are removed spatially or have different goals and orientations (e.g., university and industrial research).




1. Sequential socialization most likely with hierarchical boundaries. They often exist to preserve and legitimate a power structure. There is often specific training requirements.


2. Sequential socilization more likely to produce custodial orientations, because recruits have to be "locked in" to certain behaviors for a while before the target is reached. p. 243 Recruits exposed to random things may experience more diversity of opinions.


Fixed vs Variable Socialization Processes


Variable socialization processes give few clues as to when to expect a given boundary passage. What is true for one may not be true for another. Rumors abound about potential timetables. There becomes some heuristics about how long it takes to get promoted.


In fixed settings one can still be "sidetracked" into nothing jobs, but it's more subtle in variable processes. Variable processes reduce the power of cohorts to remain cohesive. In competitive situations they differentiate themselves from each other and adopt strategies of passage that minimize risk. p. 246




1. Fixed timetables more associated with hierarchical boundary passages and least likely with inclusionary passages.


2. Fixed socilization produced more innovative responses, variable produce custodial responses. Variable environments maximize anxiety and lead to more conformity. They keep people "off balance". In fixed, more certain changes people may engage in innovative activities in the meantime (less of a risk).


Serial vs Disjunctive Socialization Processes


Serial process is one where experienced members groom newcomers to assume similar kinds of positions. The experienced members are role models. The see themselves a few years down the road.


Disjunctive situations are where there are no role models and newcomers are not following in the footsteps of others. Examples are women entering a man's work world. It also happens when the old guard is removed and new ones take their place. Gapping refers to the historical, social, or ideological distance between recruits and agents. p. 248


Often the tone of the first class sets the ones to follow. p. 249




1. Serial socialization more associated with inclusionary boundary passages. To be included one needs to be similar to the others.


2. Serial socialization are found at hierarchical or functional boundaries when the passage requires a continuity of skills, values, and attitudes, disjunctive otherwise.


3. Serial socialization produce custodial orientation, disjunctive an innovative orientation. p. 249


Whereas the serial process risks stagnation and contamination, the disjunctive process risks complication and confusion. Keeping the new guys from the old timers can spur development of new role ideas.


Investiture vs Diverstiture Socialization Processes

Investiture socialization process ratify and document the viability and usefulness of those personal characteristics the recruits bring into the organization. "We like you just the way you are". p. 250. The organization want to take advantage of the recruit's unique skills. Many new b-school grads are such a process. Orientation programs, career counseling, relocation assistance, etc are parts of this process.


Divestiture Socialization Process try to deny and strip away certain personal characteristics. They try to sever old friendships, undergo harrassment from experienced members, do the "dirty work" for long periods, The first year of medical school is like this or the novitate period in religious orders. They then rebuild the individual's self-image based on new assumptions.


The degree to which the recruit sees it as an ordeal measures the extent of the divestiture process. It's degree may vary by the person. Note that these tactics create an indentity bestowing as well as a destroying process. p. 251




1. Divestiture processes more likely to be found at the intial entry into an organization, or prior to crossing a major inclusionary boundary that requires a test of worthiness.


2. Divestiture processes more likely lead to custodial relationships, investiture to innovative. Diverstiture processes are at the heart of professional training. The act of succeeding the ordeal requires internal justification that it was worthwhile, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Interaction of the Socialization Tactics



1. A custodial response will most likely result from a socialization process that is sequential, variable, serial, and involves divestiture. It's best to put the recruit through a series of steps without a timetable with correct role models and refine the self. p. 253


2. Content innovation most likely will occur with a process that is collective, formal, random, fixed, and disjunctive. It is desirable to train the role recruits as a group in which new ideas or technologies are specifically taught and avoid variable timetables that produce anxiety, and few role models. p. 254


3. Role Innovation is best the most extreme form of innovation and is most likely to occur through a socialization process that is individual, informal, random, disjunctive, and involves investiture. .. for an individual to have the motivation and strength to be a role innovator, the person should be reinforced individually by various members informally, free of sequential stages, exposed to innovative role models or none at all, and to experience an affirmation of the self in the process. p. 254 It should initially be a benigh socialization process.


Vi. Conclusions