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definition - anticipatory socialization

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Anticipatory socialization

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The voluntary process of preparing to accept new norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors.[1]

In organizational communication anticipatory socialization is the process that occurs when an individual develops expectations and knowledge about possible jobs and positions. It is usually the first step that occurs in the search and acceptance of an individual into an organization. Porter et al. (1975) postulate that because of this process, individuals never enter an organization with a completely blank opinion and that they carry with them “cultural baggage.” While this sounds as if it causes bias within participants, it has been found that graduate students who know more about working life before they enter into an organization are better able to find work that fits their personalities and skill sets (Arnold 1985). Several other positive affects of anticipatory socialization have been found as well. For example, anticipatory socialization helps in the formation of the overall set of expectations that an individual holds in relation to their contributions to an organization and the response by the organization to the contribution (Rousseau, 1991). An organization expects things such as time, energy, skills, and loyalty and an employee expects to be compensated as such. Based on what the employee perceives to be fair and just (from what they have come to expect based on their anticipatory socialization) this contract of sorts can be renegotiated or changed.

Anticipatory socialization comes from a variety of sources including family, peers, school and the media. This cultivation of ideas is often seen from the standpoint of adolescents while the actual socialization occurs at the adult level. Each of these groups can add a different level to the socialization some providing broad information about organizations in general, and some providing specific task information for specific roles within an organization. (Taylor et al., 2000).

The focus of a large chunk of organizational communication research is concerned with the anticipatory socialization of college graduates during their initial job search. However, this linear approach does not account for a lot of the socialization occurring during role and organization switches in a person's lifetime. Jablin (1985) sees anticipatory socialization to occur on two different levels; one as a vocational socialization which would occur only once or twice and choice socialization as roles and specific jobs change.


  1. Shepard, Jon; Robert W. Greene (2003). Sociology and You. Ohio: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. pp. A-22. ISBN 0078285763. http://www.glencoe.com/catalog/index.php/program?c=1675&s=21309&p=4213&parent=4526. 


Arnold, J. (1985) Tales of the unexpected: Surprises experienced by graduates in the early months of employment. British Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 13,3, 308-19.

Jablin, F.M. (1985). An exploratory study of vocational organizational communication socialization. Southern Speech Communication Journal, 50, 261-282.

Porter, L.W. & Steers, R.W. (1975) Organizational, work and personal factors in employee turnover and absenteeism. Psychological Bulletin, 80, 151-76.

Rousseau, D.M. (1990). Assessing organizational culture: the case for multiple methods, In Stirred, B. (Ed.) Organizational Climate & Culture, Sage, San Francisco, CA.

Taylor, J., Flanagin, A., & Seibold, D.R. (2000). Organizational research: Key moments, central concerns, and future challenges. Communication Yearbook, 24, 99-137.


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