Socialization is the process through which an individual's pattern of behavior and their values, attitudes and motives, are shaped to conform with those seen as desirable in a particular organization, society or subculture.

Buchanan & Huczynski, Organizational Behaviour (1997)

The price of membership in an organization is the loss of some personal freedom of action, and the process of learning exactly what is expected, customary and accepted is known as socialization or social learning. Albert Bandura demonstrated that new behaviors are learned through observing and copying the behavior of others, in the absence of rewards or punishments.

A newcomer socializes largely through trial and error, as usually most of an organization's standards and code of conduct are not explicitly spelled out. Usually, reinforcement (see behavioral psychology) of proper behavior happens on its own, as co-workers and superiors offer material and symbolic rewards for 'learning the ropes'. Still, Buchanan and Huczynski suggest some guidelines for easing the process:

  1. The trainee must be motivated to learn.
  2. The task to be learned should be divided into meaningful segments for which performance standards can be established.
  3. Trainees should be given clear, frequent and appropriate feedback on their performance and progress.
  4. Focus on rewarding appropriate behavior, because punishment does not tell trainees what they are doing wrong or what they have to do to improve.
  5. Concurrent feedback is more effective than delayed feedback.
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Buchanan, David and Andrzej Huczynski. Organizational Behaviour, pp. 122-125.

What is socialization?

Generally, when we refer to socialization, we think of a child learning how to be in his or her social environment. “Socialization is a process of learning” (Newman, p106). It is how people learn the way of life. Through the process of socialization, an individual becomes a “self-aware, knowledgeable person, skilled in the ways of the culture into which she or he is born.” (Giddens, p26)

The ways in which socialization occurs is a result of many factors. Culture, social class, gender, education and religion all play a major roll in an individual’s socialization.

The way we do things in our everyday lives. It is our unnoticed culture that manipulates us as an individual as well as a society. Our culture is characterised by many factors, including, music, sport, art, clothing. Shelter, food and even the tools we use.

Culture can be broken into two main categories; Material, and Nonmaterial culture. Nonmaterial culture refers to all the intangible products of society, such as, knowledge, beliefs, customs, values, morals, symbols, etc. Nonmaterial culture also refers to social standards in relation to social interaction. Basically, nonmaterial culture tells us how our society is to function, and what to do it doesn’t function correctly. “Without an understanding of a society’s nonmaterial culture, people’s behaviours… would be thoroughly incomprehensible. Material culture on the hand refers to tangible artefacts that manipulate a particular society. These artefacts include distinctive clothing, buildings, inventions, food, artwork, literature, music, etc. Nonmaterial culture can also be used to change material culture. For example, different applications of knowledge is directly related to technological achievements, which can be a way of adapting to social changes such as economic, or environmental conditions. Some aspects of culture are partially constructs of man. For example, while time in the form of days, months or years are based on natural occurrences, seconds, minutes, and hours do not exist in nature. In fact, the 7-day week has been traced to holy numbers, planets, and astrology. (Newman, 2002)

Social institutions and social norms:
There is a direct correlation between large social institutions and the way in which societies cultural values are determined. For example, in a free market economy, achievement, competition, and material acquisition are valued, just to name a few. When a particular pattern of behaviour becomes widely accepted and taken for granted in society, sociologists say that it has become an ‘institutionalized norm’ (Newman 2002).

All these cultural characteristics are taught to the individual through the process of socialization.

Resocialization refers to changing into a new set of norms, values and expectations after leaving behind old social contexts or roles. This is quite common and occurs in many people lives as they learn to act like a spouse when they marry, or to act like a parent when they have kids. Resocialization also occurs in the workforce, or even during ones schooling life. Often the purpose of this is to ensure people within these environments share the same professional values, methods, and vocabulary.

Social class:
Social class refers to positions within society and affects the individual in a number of varying ways. For example, the values and orientations children learn are influenced by their parents’ class standing. Melvin L. Kohn (1979) conducted an experiment which concluded that, generally, middle class parents are more likely to promote values such as self-direction, independence, and curiosity then working class parents. Working class parents on the other hand were generally more likely to emphasise conformity to authority, a common characteristic of the blue-collar jobs they are likely to have. (Newman, 2002). Other sociologists have concluded that regardless of cultural differences and inequalities, the relationship between social class standing and socialization exists in non – Western and formerly noncapitalist societies. (Newman, 2002).

Race and ethnicity:
Scientific theories of race arose in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They were used to justify the emerging social order as England and other European nations became imperial powers ruling over subject territories and populations. Ethnicity on the other hand is purely social in meaning and refers to cultural practices and outlooks of a community of people that set them apart from others. (Giddens, 2001). Often, people of different races with a certain community will see things differently from a different community. Newman uses the example of different communities’ views towards the police. A white female states she was brought up to have complete faith in police officers who are there to serve and protect. A black male on the other hand, stated that he was brought up to believe that police officers were nothing but “bullies with badges” (Newman, 2002) and that a neighbour would be more help to them. Here we see two different communities who are set apart due to their views on something as simple as law enforcement.

From the moment an infant is determined to be a boy or a girl, socialization due to gender occurs. From this point on, the development paths of males and females will diverge (Newman, 2002). They will be dressed differently and the parents will have different expectations of them. Parents with daughters will generally raise their child as a “tiny”, “soft”, “fine-featured”, and “delicate” girl. While parents with sons, will generally raise their child as a “strong”, “alert”, “hardy”, and “coordinated” boy.

Education is quite possibly the most powerful institutional agent of socialization, apart from the individuals’ immediate family. Schools are set up to socialize students by teaching them necessary social skills, such as reading writing and mathematics. They are also set up to equip students with necessary skills in the work force. For example, in today’s day and age, the knowledge economy demands a computer literate workforce and it is increasingly clear that education can, and must, play a critical role in meeting this need. (Giddens, 2001As well as this, schools also teach students important social, political, and economic values. (Newman, 2002).

Religion is the major source of cultural knowledge. It gives the individual moral values in order to determine right and wrong in their society. Throughout our lives, we are reminded of our religion through our particular rights of passage, (baptisms, confirmations, weddings, etc.). While these reaffirm an individual’s religious identity, they also impress on the individual the rights and obligations attached to a new status (Newman, 2002).

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