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Last updated February 19, 2000


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Socialization / Assimilation in Organizations

Explanation of Theory:

     The Organizational Assimilation Theory attempts to explain how individuals new to an organization (newcomers) assimilate into the organization by using communication.  Jablin describes three stages that occur as one enters an organization as Anticipatory Socialization, the Encounter Stage, and Metamorphosis.  An individual's socialization into an organization determines his/her success within the organization.

Theorist: Fred Jablin

Date:  1982

Primary Article:

     Jablin, F.M. (1982). Organizational communication: An assimilation approach.  In M.E. Roloff & C.R. Berger (Eds.), Social cognition and communication, p. 255-286.

Individual Interpretations:

  As with most Systems Based theories, Organization Assimilation theory has its feet planted firmly on both sides of the fence which separates both the scientific and the humanistic qualities that help us to define theory. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumption:
On ontology, Organizational Assimilation theory does credit the individual with the free will to choose to assimilate or not. Of course, other factors, such as quality of training may effect one's ability to assimilate/socialize into an organization as well. 

Epistemological Assumption:
Although Organizational Assimilation theory states that all people either will or will not assimilate into an organization (scientific, universal Truth answer), it also states that the individual may effect an organization as much as the organization effects the individual.  This epistemological assumption is broad and vague, but may lean more to the humanistic side of things for those very reasons. 

Axiological Assumption:
 The axiology of this theory is clearly value-conscious.  We cannot deny that one's values will enhance or inhibit one's socialization, and there is no room for neutrality when Jablin describes this system-like theory.


Ideas and Implications:

   Organizational assimilation theory is a very well thought out and described theory.  This Analytic consistency is one of its best qualities.  It attempts to make sense out of the world of organizational socialization and begins by describing the values that human beings place upon different work positions and their feelings about certain companies.  The Methodological rigor is excellent.  This theory has been well tested and defined.  There is Intuitive credibility at work here, and the theory helps us to make sense of our world.  Jablin describes people's expectations of the workplace or job itself as a possible detriment to assimilation.  This theory is strong on Heuristic Value.  It can be tested and improved upon, and is still relevant almost twenty years after its original conception.


Terry wants to go and work for an organization he has known about his whole life.  Her father worked there, and after she graduates from college, she expects to work there, too.  Terry's comfort level is high because she feels familiar with the organization and its goals.  These feelings describe Terry's ANTICIPATORY SOCIALIZATION which is the first part of the process everyone goes through before they enter into an organization.  Terry's expectations of the organization can either be a help or a hindrance to her work life.  When Terry is finally hired by the company, she begins the ENCOUNTER process.  She learns about the organization and its expectations of her--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The people that she encounters the most in this early stage help to define her encounter process.  People in the office that attempt to help her "get to know" the company and its expectations play an important role to her along the way.  The METAMORPHOSIS that occurs here is one of Terry's defining points of her role within the organization.

Relevant Research:

      Mignerey, J.T. & Rubin, R.B. (1995). Organizational entry: An investigation of newcomer communication behavior and uncertainty. Communication Research 22 (1), 54-86.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 255-56.

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A.

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A.

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. 342-43.

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. 383. (mentioned only.)

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A.