Organizational Socialization

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Organizational socialization describes the process of recruiting and accustoming a newcomer to a given organizational role. It is a dynamic process of mutual influence as the newcomer learns and adjust to the new environment while being able to personalize the role which is given. The socialization happens gradually, but it is of great importance to make a conscious effort from the start to attain the best results.

The socialization process can be divided into three stages. The first stage is the recruitment process where both the employer and the newcomer seek information about each other to see if they have matching values and expectations. The second step is the assimilation of the newcomer, where they adapt to and adopt organizational values, norms, and behaviors. To do so, the support and knowledge sharing of coworkers, supervisors and possibly mentors are necessary. In the third stage, the newcomer has adapted and moves from an outsider to being an accepted insider. Further socialization can be relevant if the organizational role of the employee changes.

Multiple benefits are achieved when the organizational socialization is successful, such as better communication, organizational loyalty, increasing productivity and high employee satisfaction. Whereas unsuccessful socialization can lead to inefficient work, dissatisfaction, and at worst, resignations.

Organizational socialization is highly relevant within management of projects and are clearly linked to team development and management. It is essential for the project team manager to actively make an effort to socialize the project team when the team is formed and when a newcomer is connected to the team. Team socialization occurs during all stages of a project but are particularly important in the first stages of a project when the different parties initially come together.


Why Organizational Socialization is important

Organizational socialization is defined as a dynamic process through which "individuals acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors required to adapt to a new work role".[1] This process results in the employee going from an outsider to an insider. Successful socialization involves mutual influence, meaning the employee adopts organizational values and interest while being able to personalize the given organizational role. Consequently, both organizational and individual needs are met. [2]

Organizational assimilation is essential for the integration of a newcomer. The concept entails the newcomer intentionally, as well as unintentionally, being socialized by the organization. The newcomer must modify their work procedures to reach the expectations of both the employer and its own, by seeking information about the workplace and adapting their behavior towards the behavior of their coworkers. Several different members of the organization influences this process and are pivotal for it to be successful, ranging from the managers to the peers of the newcomer. Additionally, both supervisors and mentors can be effective resources to utilize. [3]

Organizational socialization is mostly centralized around the arrival of a new employee, but it is also applicable in a situation in which an existing employee's role is changed either due to structural organizational changes or because of a change in the team structure that the employee is part of. If an existing employee finds herself in a new work role, resocialization is needed for the employee to adapt to the new role. Organizational policies, norms and values will already be known for the employee, but the new role will place the employee in a new position which entails a redefinition of the hierarchy and relation between them and their coworkers. Likewise, the coworkers must adapt to the changes induced by the employee taking the new role. [4]

There is a notable link between organizational socialization and team development as they mainly occur simultaneously. If an employee enters an already existing team, a redevelopment of the team must take place. The newcomer has to assimilate to the behaviors and norms of the existing team, while the original team members have to adapt to the changes in role, status and responsibilities the newcomer might entail, making a degree of resocialization needed for all team members. If a new team of existing employees is being developed, it might result in the team members being new to each other and the team is somehow new to the organization and a socialization of the members is needed to ensure a productive collaboration. The individuals must adjust to each other to become a team unit with coherent behaviors and values. However, organizational socialization is rarely given much attention in such situations, especially if the team is of temporary status. [4]

Three stages with varying names are often used to describe the process of organizational socialization. The first step being the recruitment process where both the organization and the newcomer collects information about one another. The second step entails the newcomer adjusting to the new work environment, and the third stage is reached when the newcomer has adapted to the given organizational role. [5] Furthermore, a fourth stage is sometimes mentioned which revolves around the disengagement and exit of an employee. This stage is not in focus in this article.

Benefits of organizational socialization

Effective and successful organizational socialization results in considerable benefits for both the employer and the employee. Better communication and coordination can be obtained within the work team, it can reduce stress and uncertainties, heighten the organizational commitment and lead to satisfaction and a positive feeling of self-worth. Consequently, increasing the productivity and innovation of the employees, leading to making it possible to efficiently achieve organizational and team goals and secure the employees longevity in the organization. [3]

Team socialization is shown to be essential for improving team adaptivity (constructive responds to changes), proactivity (future-directed engagement) and proficiency (coordination of work). [6] Furthermore, a team obtains a greater cohesiveness and long-term stability by being socialized. Trust between team members is achieved based on shared tasks and projects, making way for better knowledge sharing and improved individual decision performance. [7]

Within an organization, the socialization helps to preserve continuity as it ensures that the values and norms of the organization is passed on from employee to employee.[8]


Various means and tools can be used to achieve successful socialization. Which means to utilize depends greatly on the stage of the socialization. Generally, there are three stages of organizational socialization, excluding the exit of an employee. The stages are mentioned with varying names in the literature, and the stages stated in this article are named as seen fit rather than according to the literature.

In all three stages both the organization and the newcomer must play an active role for the socialization to succeed.

Stage 1: Recruitment

This stage happens pre-arrival of the newcomer to the organization and is the process of the candidate joining an organization. The newcomer searches for a fitting organization to join by collecting available information about the organization. The newcomer is trying to find places and jobs that fit their expectations, but it can be hard to distinguish the different workplaces by the superficial official information to be found. If the newcomer has connections within a potential organization, it can be an opportunity to get an insight to the work environment.[9]

Simultaneously, the organization is pursuing candidates to match their needs. This can be handled by either the manager of the team/department needing a new employee or by an internal party like a human resource department, as well as an external party such as a recruitment agency. It is most beneficial if the responsible have some both technical and organizational knowledge, to ensure the applications are correctly handled. [9]

Contact between the candidates and the organization is possible through various channels, such as advertising on the organizational website, through social media and job-sides and orchestrating network events. When the contact has been established, the organization must collect information about the candidates and select the most fitting prospect. This can be done by either a tournament model of selection or a contest model. [9]

The first model is the most traditional one and entails the candidate being presented with different tasks and after each round candidates are eliminated based on their performance. In the second model, the elimination happens at the final stage and is based on the overall performance, giving a higher probability of reaching the final cut. The latter might demand more training of the final candidates, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage as it can allow for more diverse hiring.[9]

Figure 1: Stages of Organizational Socialization

Stage 2: Assimilation

Stage two begins when the newcomer starts in the new position and encounters the work environment for the first time. This stage consists of the newcomer learning and adapting to the expected behavior through exchange activities and gathering technical, social, and normative information. By this, they find their situational identity and work roles.[3] By being information and feedback seeking, the newcomer actively participates in the socialization and illustrates ambitions of performing well.[10]

The first few days are especially influential. An orientation program is essential, but is important to avoid it being bureaucratic, impersonal, and irrelevant. The focus should rather be on giving fitting, but meaningful assignments and being connected to selected insiders to help them navigate in the new environment. Such insiders can be coworkers of equal rank, supervisors, or mentors, ideally combined.[9] Below, the three types of insiders are described.


The coworkers of equal rank are a great source of informal information and offers the opportunity of friendly communication. The newcomer can decode and adopt norms and values from the coworkers and mirror their behavior. The newcomer is mostly in contact with the coworkers compared to other insiders and they are therefore essential, especially concerning the unconscious socialization.[3]


Supervisors are coworkers of higher rank or with greater experience than the newcomer and therefore often imply hierarchical roles between the supervisor and the newcomer. The supervisor has the responsibility of passing on formal information and organizational expectations, as well as delegates tasks and delivers feedback. The newcomer has the opportunity to negotiate expectations and tasks with the supervisor, which minimize the risk of dissatisfaction with the job.[3]


A mentor offers to be a role model for the newcomer and gives both formal and informal support to the newcomer. They can contribute with advice and coaching, making the socialization more efficient. Formal mentoring consists of the mentor passing on knowledge and skills to the lesser experienced newcomer, resulting in the newcomer developing new competences. Informal mentoring entails "inside" information about organizational politics and social interaction being offered to the newcomer. [9]

Stage 3: Settling

At stage three, the newcomer has adapted to the workplace and given organizational role and experiences all the benefits of successful organizational socialization. The newcomer is now an accepted insider and has adapted organizational norms, values, and behaviors, as well as personalized the organizational role given to her/him. The employee experiences job satisfaction and organizational commitment and the organization have acquired an productive employee.[10] Over time, a resocialization can be needed if organizational changes occur or the organizational role of the employee is changed, to prevent dissatisfaction from the employee.

The relation between Organizational Socialization and Project, Program and Portfolio management

Organizational socialization is an important concept within all levels of management, whether it is project, program, or portfolio, as it is pivotal to achieve productive employees and successful results. However, it might be most applicable within project management as the project manager has a somewhat close contact to the anticipating coworkers within the project and has a direct responsibility for ensuring that organizational socialization is performed when new employees join the project, as well as when existing employees experience a change in work role.

As socialization is a dynamic process, it is present during the whole life cycle of a project. However, it is especially relevant to give focus in the beginning of a new project, particularly if new members have been added to the associated teams, to establish clear and constructive communication and quality in the decision making. If newcomers are introduced while the project is running, it also calls for a conscious effort in integrating the newcomer by socialization.

Especially within Project Resource Management, as defined by Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) [11] is organizational socialization a central concept and tool to use. It states that the project team manager is responsible for acquiring, managing, motivating, and empowering the project team and make sure all team members are involved in the planning and decision making. To do so, "The project manager should be aware of, and subscribe to, professional and ethical behavior, and ensure that all team members adhere to these behaviors." [11] As successful organizational socialization leads to coherent behavior and values; it is an effective tool to achieve this.

Some steps of Project Resource Management are clearly linked to organizational socialization such as (1) Planning and Acquiring Resources, (2) Developing a team and (3) Managing a team.

Step (1) is linked to the recruitment stage and includes a resource management plan, which defines the roles, responsibilities, and competencies of the project team members as well as a plan for training and team development. Furthermore, a team charter is included, which "...establishes team values, agreements and operating guidelines for the team." [11] Both helps define clear expectations of the project team members and sets clear boundary conditions for the socialization process of the team. When these parts are established, team members can be recruited efficiently.

Step (2) is linked to the assimilation stage of organizational socialization as the team is socialized in this step. It "is the process of improving competencies, team member interaction, and the overall team environment to enhance project performance" [11] which can be achieved by consciously enabling and supporting the process of organizational socialization in the project team.

In step (3) the team members have reached insider status and the manager benefits of a productive and coherent team, correlated to stage 3 of organizational socialization. The Resource Project manager now has the responsibility for resolving issues and providing feedback to optimize the performance of the team. [11] If project team members are replaced by newcomers, the manager must ensure the newcomer is socialized and the project team re-socialized.

Furthermore, organizational socialization limits conflicts in projects as they often arise due to miscommunication and differences in perception, values and backgrounds, according to the DS Handbook: Doing Projects. A Nordic Flavour to Managing Projects. As stated earlier, successful socialization leads to better communication and shared values and norms, giving more coherent teams despite the members backgrounds, thus effectively limiting conflicts.

Limitations and special cases

Most studies of organizational socialization revolve around graduates entering the job market. It is assumed that the same tendencies are seen in other cases of newcomers entering new organizational roles, but more research is highly anticipated.[12]

Some newcomers and situations demand more specialized approaches than the general case, such as minorities, online work environments and experienced new employees.

Minorities are more vulnerable towards feeling excluded and isolated in the work environment, especially if no role models are available. Thus, more extensive, and specialized socialization processes are needed to achieve successful results. Although it being a highly relevant topic, not many studies revolving around it have been conducted.[9]

The technological innovation of communication tools has allowed for virtual team work to expand. The Covid-19 pandemic have further incited the use of these, making it highly relevant to expand the organizational socialization to also cover strategies within virtual socialization. Virtual team members are typically more isolated and relies on virtual communication. This offers new challenges that few studies have addressed.[3]

Experienced new employees differs from inexperienced newcomers as the can draw on their experiences and insights from previous jobs when entering a new position and therefore have different expectations and needs than a newly graduated employee.[10]

Annotated bibliography

[1] C. R. Wanberg, The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization: A handbook that describes organizational socialization and thoroughly reviews present studies and research conducted within the concept. It treats both general forms of organizational socialization, as well as more specific scenarios and how the process differs in relation to the circumstances.

[4] J. P. Wanous, A. E. Reichers, S. D. Malik, Organizational Socialization and Group Development: Toward an Integrative Perspective: An article that analyses the link and similarities between organizational socialization and group development and why it is important to integrate the two. It treats the degree of redevelopment and socialization of a team that is necessary when a newcomer enters the team.

[3] what-when-how, Managing Relationships in Virtual Team Socialization: An information site which offers knowledge about fundamental aspects of organizational socialization as well as insight to how to manage organizational socialization for virtual teams. It highlights the difficulties that comes with the virtual work environment and online communication.


  1. 1.0 1.1 C. R. Wanberg, The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization, The Oxford Library of Psychology, (July 2012).
  2. B. L. Berkelaar, & M. A. Harrison, Organizational Socialization, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication (May 2019).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 what-when-how (2021), Managing Relationships in Virtual Team Socialization (information science),
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 , J. P. Wanous, A. E. Reichers, S. D. Malik, Organizational Socialization and Group Development: Toward an Integrative Perspective, The Academy of Management Review , Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1984), pp. 670-683.
  5. iEdoNote (2021), Organizational Socialization: 3 Stages of Organizational Socialization,
  6. , A. Pennaforte, The influence of proactive socialization behaviors and team socialization on individual performance in the team, Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 2016, 17(4), pp. 413-421.
  7. M. Handzic, Managing Knowledge through Experimentation and Socialisation, PAKM 2000
  8. Chron -small business (2021), How Does Socialization Promote Change in Organizations?,
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 , D. C. Feldman, Risky Business: The Socialisation of Managers in the 21st Century, Journal of Organizational Change Management (Vol. 3 1990) pp. 16-29.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 , T. Bauer, B. Erdogan, Organizational socialization: The effective onboarding of new employees, APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology Vol. 3, (Jan 2011), pp. 51-64.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 , Project Management Institute, Inc.. (2017) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition), Retrieved from
  12. T. N. Bauer, Organizational Socialization, Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology (2004), p. 743-745.
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