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Relating physical environment to self-categorizations: Identity threat and affirmation in a non-territorial office space

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I used qualitative methods to explore why some employees working in a newly created, non-territorial office environment perceived that their workplace identities were threatened and used particular tactics to affirm those threatened identities. Findings suggest that the non-territorial work environment threatened some employees' workplace identities because it severely limited their abilities to affirm categorizations of distinctiveness (versus status) through the display of personal possessions. Categorizations of distinctiveness appeared to be most threatened by the loss of office personalization because of three characteristics: (1) their absolute, rather than graded membership structure, (2) their high subjective importance and personal relevance, and (3) their high reliance on physical markers for affirmation. In affirming threatened identity categorizations, employees chose different tactics, in terms of the amount of effort required and their conformance with company rules, based on the acceptability and importance of affirming the threatened categorization.

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