The ability of employees to take charge—which is defined as change-oriented behavior aimed at improvement—is essential for the long-term adaptability of organizations. Prior research has shown that organizational identification—or the extent to which people define themselves in terms of their membership in a particular organization—serves as an important antecedent of their propensity to take charge. However, the literature also shows that in post-merger situations—which are characterized by high levels of uncertainty—organizational identification becomes highly ambiguous. At the same time, it is in these uncertain situations that extra-role behaviors such as taking charge are especially valuable, because roles, teams and the organization are less well-defined. This leads to the question under which conditions employees in uncertain situations will step up and take charge, even though they do not strongly identify with the post-merger company.
To answer this question, we integrate social network research with the literature on organizational identification and taking charge behavior. Prior work has shown that post-merger integration causes the reconfiguration of the network of intra-organizational relationships that form the basis of organizational identification. Especially in times of uncertainty, however, people tend to make their workplace social networks smaller and shift their communication from formal to informal network ties. We extend this work and explore the interaction between workplace social networks and organizational identification, to gain insights into post-merger taking charge behavior.
More specifically, we examine how the network ties of employees can mitigate low levels of organizational identification and stimulate employees to take charge. We gathered rich social network data from 123 employees and 36 managers working for a post-merger company one year after the merger. We collected data on different types of relationships relevant to taking charge behavior, including sharing advice and information (advice ties), providing support for new initiatives (buy-in ties), helping to generate novel ideas (innovation ties), and affecting the outcome of important decisions (influence ties). In addition, we used different sources to collect data on the personality characteristics, organizational identification, and taking charge behavior of our respondents. We discuss the implications of our findings for the literatures on taking charge behavior, organizational social networks, organizational identification, and post-merger integration.