Organizational socialization as kin-work: A psychoanalytic model of settling into a new job

Sarah Gilmore, Nancy Harding

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Socialization, the transition from newcomer to embedded organizational citizen, is an inevitable feature of organizational life. It is often a painful and traumatic experience but why this is so, and how its difficulties can be ameliorated is not well understood. This article addresses this issue by developing a new person-centred model of socialization. We introduce the concept of kin-work, i.e. the replication of one’s first experiences of becoming part of a family, to explain how ‘successful’ socialization is achieved. Drawing on the methodology of memory work and psychoanalytical theories of object relations, we illustrate how entry into new jobs involves the unconscious re-enactment in adult life of the infant’s initiation into the family. On entry as a stranger to a new organization one’s sense of self is fractured: processes of kin-work knit the pieces back together and one develops a sense of personhood and being at home. However, there is a sting in this tale: the homely contains its uncanny, unhomely opposite, so socialization is always ambivalent - one can never be at home in this place that feels like home.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-605
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number3
Early online date2 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • embeddedness
  • kin-work
  • memory work
  • psychoanalysis
  • socialization
  • uncanny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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