Values & Culture

The Different Aspects of Self in an Organisation

The Different Aspects of Self in an OrganisationThere is a continuing amount of research on the different aspects of looking at ‘self’. The most dominant work proposed is that there are three distinct ways in which we can define ourselves:

  • As an individual
  • As an interpersonal being
  • as an group member.

 When my individual self is activated, my focus will tend to be self‑centred and my motivation will be to seperate from others around me by emphasing my unique characteristics. Any competitive situation is likely to activate the individual self.

 When my interpersonal self is activated, my motivation will be to benefit and help others with whom I have a close relationship. When I make decisions or undertake actions, I’m more likely to think about the impact these may have on those I’m working closely with.

 When my collective self is activated my focus will be on my organisation. I’m likely to show pride in being a member of this group, adopt the values of my group and ensure that my decisions and actions promote the welfare of my group.

 The first question that needs to be ask is ”What kind of behaviours do we need from those in our organisation in order for it to be successful?’

 Once you have answered that question, the next question is “How do we promote these behaviours?”

 Different organisational structures will activate different self‑views.

  1. Organisations that have structures that encourage individuals to rely more on themselves for information and support rather than on a network of relationships are likely to activate the individual self. Here individuals will tend to promote their own welfare over others. Denominations/movements that encourage churches to be large fit into this category, as do churches that encourage large ministry programs.
  1. Organisations that emphasis teamwork, will encourage interpersonal cooperation and a relational orientation. Under these conditions people tend to deal fairly with each other. Thinking about the interests of others becomes important because people begin to expect others to do the same. Encouraging relational ministry or ministry directed towards the welfare of others, such as small groups, mentoring, coaching or providing emotional support for others, will activate and reinforce the relational self within an organisation. Denominations/movements that encourage churches to be part of local and regional developmental networks also fit into this category
  1. There are two different aspects of the collective self that can be activated within organisations.

a. The first relates to the silo mentality. When individuals find themselves in groups that have low turn over and have strong physical and mental boundaries that separate them from other teams, a collective identity is often activated and they are motivated to enhance the welfare of their own group relative to other groups in the organisation.

b. The other form of collective self occurs when the individual identifies strongly with the organisation as a whole. This usually happens when people are galvanized by a common goal or purpose. When this collective self is activated, individuals tend to operate with a set of shared values and are mindful of the impact their behaviour has on the organisation. An organisation that is able to activate this aspect of self in individuals will also find that their members are extremely loyal and will tend to view their organisation as their own.

 It is interesting to reflect on the processes and structures we set-up within our own organisations and the behaviour they tend to elicit from our people. Someone once said that the context within an organisation is like a fast running river, it’s a lot easier to swim downstream than it is to swim up stream. I guess the message in all of that is if you are not happy with the way people are behaving in your organisation it might be worthwhile first having a look at the contexts they are operating in and the message conveyed by the organisation.

 Colin Noyes is the Director of ResourceZone International. He has thirty-five years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors. He can be reached at

Related Resources  

Related Posts

About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

Newsletter Subscribe