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In my own personal experience I found that in Ikea there were many divorcees and single people. There were also an unusually high number of couples that had met through Ikea and then worked together in the same building. Some of the divorcees openly blamed their relationship break-up on the fact that they work for Ikea; their partners simply did not understand the commitment, in terms of time, that they gave willingly to the company.
My own relationship with my partner started to suffer quite soon after the initial 3-month period, I had bonded with my new colleagues and I was enthusiastic and committed to this new way of working my attitude to work and my commitment had changed in favour of Ikea (Festinger, 1957).
As a manager it was encouraged that examples should be set by giving that little bit extra to help co-workers across the store, so for example; if the tills were busy at the end of the evening it was an unspoken rule that all managers should stay until closing time to help clear the backlog of customers, this sometimes meant leaving the store an hour and a half after the official end of the day.
I found it difficult to go against the norm as everyone else appeared to take it for granted, I wanted to leave at my normal time of 6.00pm but found it impossible to do so when my colleagues were staying behind and helping out. Solomon Asch describes this type of behaviour as yielding (Gross, 1996: Ch 20) conforming to group pressure. Festinger talks about the five conditions for increased fervour in a belief following the disconfirmation of a belief, this is comparable to an example when a close friend of mine at Ikea (store manager) had been working hard and consequently there had been some irrevocable conflict within his marriage about the job and the expectations of Ikea.
After his initial split with his wife he dealt with her condemnation of Ikea by “spreading the word of Ikea” with increased enthusiasm and renewed passion, he saw the Ikea family as his support network and this reliance on the company and Ikea “family members” simply reinforced the belief in his decision (Festinger, 1959) of ending his marriage. On a similar personal level my job and my alliance to it became an increasing problem at home. My behaviour changed at home, I made excuses about going into work early and staying late.
In the initial few months I found myself defending Ikea as I felt so close to my new colleagues and didn’t want to let them down, however as time went on I realised that I missed the quality time with my partner and I saw that my priorities had become affected by my commitment to work. At work I saw friends splitting up with their partners because of similar reasons and then justifying their action by criticising their relationship. This type of validation for their behaviour resembles what Festinger wrote about in “When Prophecy Fails”.
Where dissonance is rationalised through the support of your fellow believers (in this case fellow co-workers). After 12 months I sustained an injury that lead to a back operation and this period away from work (3 months) gave me time to reflect on my time there and started to see how I had been influenced by the Ikea way and how I had conformed to this way incredibly fast. Conformity involves a change of behaviour or opinion in order to fit in with a group. According to Crutchfield “Conformity is a yielding to group pressure when there is no direct request to comply with the group.
” (Gross, 1996: 479). However according to Zimbardo & Leippe ” Conformity is a change in belief or behaviour in response to real or imagined group pressure where there is no direct request to comply with the group norm. ” (Gross, 1996:479). Majority influence is when a larger group influences a smaller group or individual. Although Asch was generally concerned with how one can resist majority influence and pressure, his experiments are generally deemed to exhibit the power of majority influence.
Similar to the influence of the majority found in Ikea. Needless to say upon my return I decided to leave Ikea and 3 months later I moved to another job with a different company. In the first few weeks I felt a great sense of great loss almost a grief my regrets were therefore twofold, I felt a regret of leaving the fold of Ikea and also a regret that conflicted with this and that was of not realising sooner my behavioural and attitude changes that had affected my personal life.
In summing up this paper we have looked at Ikea and how its culture was aligned to sociological groups. We have covered the way of working within this organisation and how this relates to conformity and group influence again drawing parallels to similar sociological findings. It has been interesting journey to relate this instance where my own personal experience has been influenced by the belonging of a group, especially a group with such strong cultural roots as Ikea.
The analogies found in this paper make it more understandable as to how social influences can have such wide-ranging affects on individuals. And how many situations (from the impact of TV on the masses through to major historical events such as the rise of Nazism) can arise. It certainly makes the self and our interaction with others food for thought.
(Festinger, 1957) Gross, 1996: 448 “cognitive dissonance theory”. Gross, R. (1999). The Science of Mind and Behavior. (3rd Ed). Hodder & Stoughton. Press) (Festinger, 1959)