While theory and research have identified the possibility for multiple organizational identities to exist within an organization, there is little empirical evidence on how differentiation occurs or what its implications are for the organization. In the course of inductively studying an organizational spin-off, evidence of identity differentiation based on hierarchy level emerged in interview-, documentation-, and observation-based data. Higher levels of the hierarchy tended to see identity in light of the organization's strategy, whereas lower aspects of the hierarchy saw it in relation to the organization's culture. This identity differentiation was evident in marked differences in the perceptions organizational members had about: (i) the nature of organizational identity; (ii) the most salient identity-based discrepancies; (iii) the basis for organizational identity change; and (iv) how identity change can be implemented. After examining how and why this hierarchical differentiation occurred, I discuss the implications for our understanding of organizational identity and situate it in the larger context of organizational change.
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