Organizational Socialization and the Profession of Management

I CAN DEFINE MY TOPIC of concern best by reviewing very briefly the kinds of issues upon which I have focused my research over the last several years. In one way or another I have been trying to understand what happens to an individual when he enters and accepts membership in an organization. My interest was originally kindled by studies of the civilian and military prisoners of the Communists during the Korean War. I thought I could discern parallels between the kind of indoctrination to which these prisoners were subjected, and some of the indoctrination which goes on in American corporations when college and business school graduates first go to work for them. My research efforts came to be devoted to learning what sorts of attitudes and values students had when they left school, and what happened to these attitudes and values in the first few years of work. To this end I followed several panels of graduates of the Sloan School into their early careers.

When these studies were well under way, it suddenly became quite apparent to me that if I wanted to study the impact of an organization on the attitudes and values of its members, I might as well start closer to home. We have a school through which we put some 200 men per year—undergraduates, regular master's students, Sloan Fellows, and Senior Executives. Studies of our own students and faculty revealed that not only did the student groups differ from each other in various attitude areas, but that they also differed from the faculty.

For example, if one takes a scale built up of items which deal with the relations of government and business, one finds that the Senior Executives in our program are consistently against any form of government intervention, the Sloans are not as extreme, the master's students are roughly in the middle, and the faculty are in favor of such intervention. A similar line-up of attitudes can be found with respect to labor-management relations, and with respect to cynicism about how one gets ahead in industry. In case you did not guess, the Senior Executives are least cynical and the faculty are most cynical.

We also found that student attitudes change in many areas during school, and that they change away from business attitudes toward the faculty position.


P.M. Blau and R.W. Scott, Formal Organizations (San Francisco: Chandler, 1962).

E. Goffman, Asylums (Garden City, NY Doubleday-Anchor, 1961).

E.H. Schein, "Attitude Change during Management Education," Administrative Science Quarterly 11 (1967): 601–628.

E.H. Schein et al., Coercive Persuasion (New York: Norton, 1961).

E.H. Schein, "Forces Which Undermine Management Development," California Management Review, Summer 1963, pp. 23–34.

E.H. Schein, "How to Break in the College Graduate," Harvard Business Review, November–December 1964, pp. 68–76.

E.H. Schein, "Management Development as a Process of Influence," Industrial Management Review (now Shan Management Review), May 1961, pp. 59–77.

E.H. Schein, Organizational Psychology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965).

E.H. Schein, "The Problem of Moral Education for the Business Manager," Industrial Management Review (now Sloan Management Review), Fall 1966, pp. 3–14.

E.H. Schein, "Training in Industry: Education or Indoctrination," Industrial Medicine and Surgery, Vol. 33 (1964).

E.H. Schein, "The Wall of Misunderstanding on the First Job," Journal of College Placement, February–March 1967.

1. E.H. Schein, Coercive Persuasion (New York: Norton, 1961).

2. E.H. Schein, "Management Development as a Process of Influence," Industrial Management Review (now Sloan Management Review), May 1961, pp. 59–77.

3. J. Van Maanen and E.H. Schein, "Toward a Theory of Organizational Socialization," in Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 1, eds. B.M. Staw and L.L. Cummings (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1979).

4. E.H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985).


This talk was based on research supported by the Office of Naval Research and the Sloan Research Fund.