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Identity and identity politics meaning

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Identity & identity politics definition

The term “identity”, in the context of social psychology, was originally expanded on by Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, whose theory of psychosocial development was based on the concept of the ego identity, often known as the self, which is defined as a person's unique feeling of continuity. 

Sociologist Richard Jenkins redefines identity as “knowing who we are, knowing who others are, them knowing who we are, us knowing who they think we are and so on”. A person's identity is shaped by the various relationships they have, including those with their parents, friends, partners and children. It involves outside factors that an individual has no control over, such as height, race or socioeconomic status. Political views, moral convictions and religious convictions are all components of identity that influence daily decisions. 

Barbara Smith, author and activist further incorporated this term into her concept of “identity politics”, which she employed to explain how different facets of identity collide to produce distinct kinds of oppression for women of colour, particularly Black lesbian women. The term identity politics describes a trend away from traditional broad-based party politics and towards the formation of exclusive political alliances by members of specific religious, ethnic, social, and other groups. Identity politics has been growing more impactful, both in wider society and the workplace.  

Real-world context

  • Talent attraction: Employees are becoming more outspoken in communicating their expectations, which pressures companies to align with their own objectives and beliefs.  The majority of Gen Z and Millennial employees are not satisfied with their employer's commitment to societal impact, according to Deloitte's 2022 Global Gen Z and Millennial Survey. Progressive employers need to adapt to the growing identity politics within their workforce and have a strategy to manage employee relations on a whole new level.  
  • Cohesion: The biggest risk factor of growing identity politics in the workforce is the resulting lack of belonging and cohesion. Divisions within the workplace create distinguished groups that may not be willing to collaborate and work together. Effective management of these practices would prevent the growing lack of cohesion.  
  • Inclusion: A friendly workplace culture that meaningfully embraces diversity can be created by employers by actively celebrating holidays like Hanukkah and Diwali, providing language assistance to non-native English speakers, and creating an atmosphere where workers feel free to fully embrace their individuality—including all facets of their identities. 

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