Department of Culture and Learning

The Dark Side of Organizational Socialization

The Dark Side of Organizational Socialization

3rd International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Communication in Professional Contexts

11 - 12 November 2021.

Aalborg University, Denmark

The Communicating Organizations Research group at Aalborg University invites paper abstract submissions for the 3rd International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Communication in Professional Contexts. Inspired by Diane Vaughan’s phrase “the dark side of organizations,” the conference offers specific attention on the mundane, hidden, and often taken-for-granted aspects of organizational socialization as well as the potential consequences of these organizing practices. Thus, we invite those with organizational discourse and communication perspectives to submit abstracts exploring a wide range of topics related to organizational socialization processes.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Professor (emeritus) Stanley Deetz, University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Socialization as Enablement and Constraint: Conditions for Choice and Unwitting Consent

Professor Karen Myers, UC Santa Barbara

  • Neither All Dark, Nor All Bright: Both Sides of Organizational Socialization and Assimilation

Professor Gerlinde Mautner, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien

  • False positives: A critique of leadership discourse

Professor Sine Nørholm Just, RUC

  • The bright side of the dark side of digital organizing? Online socialization from the Capitol Hill riots to the GameStop rescue

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, we have chosen to make this conference a hybrid, i.e., an ‘onsite’ & online, conference – for keynote speakers and participants alike. This ensures that delegates may be able to attend the conference regardless of preference for coming to Aalborg and being with us ‘onsite’ or for staying at home and being with us online.

  • Abstract submission deadline: August 1st, 2021
  • Notification of acceptance: September 1st, 2021
  • Conference fee due: October 1st, 2021

Elaborations on the conference topic

A main characteristic of late modern societies is the decline of the grand narratives of family, church, government, and nation. The decline of these narratives, as well as the authority of the institutions constituted in and by them, has left an open space, a void if you will. A void that seems to exert an almost gravitational pull on other narratives and other institutions, all of which are eager to occupy the space left open.

With this conference, we are particularly interested in exploring, analyzing, discussing, and critiquing the phenomenon of organizational socialization, i.e., what happens when corporations step in and strive to fill this void.

Theorizing the wider, socio-political ramifications of this phenomenon, led sociologist-cum-philosopher Jürgen Habermas to describe a society in which the logic of the market (i.e., “system imperatives”) would “encroach” on the public sphere, and, hence, on the lifeworlds of individuals. Applying the notion of encroachment to the corporate world, critical organizational scholar Stanley Deetz talks about the “corporate colonization” of the individual’s life world. Against this broader, societal backdrop, Dennis Mumby, from the point of view of critical organizational communication, stipulates that “corporations have become the primary institution for human identity formation”.

This conference on organizational discourse and communication studies finds its intellectual point of departure by integrating these insights from sociology with the growing critical awareness within the field of organizational discourse and communication studies. By leaning on Diane Vaughan’s phrase “the dark side of organizations”, we aim to contribute to this conversation by offering a specific focus on the dark side of organizational socialization.

Contrary to the widespread intuition that organizational socialization only takes place in the transitional phase during which a newcomer acquires the work-related skillset needed to fulfill a work role in an organization, we see organizational socialization as a perpetual process aiming, ultimately, at employee identity formation. In this view, organizational socialization is a process that spans and permeates the entirety of an employee life cycle, i.e., from attracting, recruiting, onboarding, developing, to offboarding an employee. Seen as a process aiming at employee identity formation, organizational socialization is not merely a mechanical matter of an employee acquiring a certain skillset; but the much more momentous matter of instilling in an employee the “appropriate” organizational mindset.

And that, in essence, is where this conference would like to enter the conversation. For if indeed a corporate mindset is the ultimate goal of organizational socialization, then the phenomenon in question becomes, eo ipso, a phenomenon that transgresses traditional organizational boundaries. We see the ramifications of this phenomenon emerging when employees are expected to (sometimes even encouraged to) act as company ambassadors, to ‘live’ the brand, to participate in employee advocacy programs, and to adhere to company values – not merely at work, but off work as well. Organizational socialization, in this light, is not a mere intra-organizational triviality, but does indeed become a potent transformational vehicle harboring the very real possibility of shepherding extra-organizational identity formation in the individual.

It is against this multifaceted, theoretical background, that this conference invites scholars to engage in a critical, 3600 look at organizational communication. We welcome conceptual as well as empirical work with the aim of exploring, analyzing, problematizing and critiquing perspectives such as, but not limited to:

Realizations & materializations:

How is organizational socialization constituted in, say,

  • discourses
  • communication
  • texts
  • interactions
  • practices and routines
  • structures
  • cultures and performances
  • Minds and mindsets
  • Material bodies, architectures, and objects
  • Space and time

Philosophical underpinnings:

How is organizational socialization justified as, say,

  • a function of corporate ideology, of business philosophy
  • aligned with the organization’s vision, mission and values
  • a natural outgrowth of managerialism
  • the means with which to ensure a dedicated workforce
  • the means with which to ensure a uniform organizational culture


How does organizational socialization potentially influence, say,

  • the individual organizational member’s identity formation and organizational identification
  • employee voice and participation
  • individuals’ attempts at individualization
  • newcomers’ strategies for establishing a presence in the organization
  • the relationship between co-workers
  • the work-life balance of organizational members
  • relations between organizations and their societies
  • mechanisms of unobtrusive control
  • dissensus, resistance, or micro-politics
  • competing identitities “within” the organization/ sub-cultures etc.