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How to Establish a Group Identity

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Groups, like individuals, have an identity. Any body of people can have an identity, including cities, towns, businesses, nonprofit organizations, religious groups and entire nations. The formation and perpetuation of group identity can take any number of forms and lead to various results. Among these results is the feeling of intergroup protection: People are much more inclined to show welfare and to reward members of their group as they would to outsiders. There are a number of ways to establish group identity in various settings.

Play on the commonality of group members. People feel at one with others when there are perceived elements in common. Such elements can be anything, from skin color to religious beliefs. Help members see ways in which they are united with other group members.

Develop an overarching mission or goal. Group members will feel solidarity with each other when they perceive that they are working toward shared ends. Write down the mission or goals and reinforce them regularly with group members.

Provide ways for group members to have shared experiences. Many businesses use team-building exercises and retreats to help foster group mentality and teamwork. Schedule regular team-building activities, such as campouts, birthday celebrations, seminars and retreats. Encourage members to discuss these experiences and to use them in their work.

Emphasize the importance of roles. In any organization, not everyone will be performing the same functions. This may lead to feelings of resentment or favoritism. Reinforce the idea that people play different roles and serve different functions in an organization; ultimately, these diverse roles complement each other, making for a stronger overall group. When people feel that they play an important role in the group, they will have a sense of solidarity with other group members.


Any group identity is precluded by the fact that some members will not feel that they fit in with the identity. Be prepared for backlash against the organization or its mission in some form. Disgruntled employees, marginalized members and other dissidents may leave the organization or fight it in some way. Create a plan to resolve such issues.