Enculturation Trajectories: Language, Cultural Adaptation, and Individual Outcomes in Organizations
How do people adapt to organizational culture and what are the consequences for their outcomes in the organization? These fundamental questions about culture have previously been examined using self-report measures, which are subject to reporting bias, rely on coarse cultural categories defined by researchers, and provide only static snapshots of cultural fit. In contrast, we develop an interactional language use model that overcomes these limitations and opens new avenues for theoretical development about the dynamics of organizational culture. We trace the enculturation trajectories of employees in a mid-sized technology firm based on analyses of 10.24 million internal emails. Our language-based model of changing cultural fit: (1) predicts individual attainment; (2) reveals distinct patterns of adaptation for employees who exit voluntarily, exit involuntarily, and remain employed; (3) demonstrates that rapid early cultural adaptation reduces the risk of involuntary, but not voluntary, exit; and (4) finds that a decline in cultural fit for individuals who had successfully enculturated portends voluntary departure.
Sameer B. Srivastava is Assistant Professor and Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and is also affiliated with UC Berkeley Sociology. His research examines how social networks, culture, and cognition affect career dynamics and individual attainment within organizations. His work has been published in American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Management Science, Organization Science, Social Forces, Psychological Science, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Research in the Sociology of Organizations. It has been covered in media outlets such as: Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Business Insider. At Haas, Sameer teaches a popular MBA elective course, Power and Politics in Organizations, and also teaches in a number of executive education programs. Sameer holds AB, AM, MBA, and PhD degrees from Harvard University.