What is your Stage of Identity Development? The Increasing Globalization of the Workplace

Who are you? What is your Cultural Identity?

What is your stage of Identity Development and how can this impact your career?

How adept are you at working with diverse people and/or for a Global Employer?

The workplace is increasingly global and diverse. Each of our job titles and roles increasingly is intertwined with both national and multinational interests, technologies, operations, suppliers etc. We all have multiple roles within our division, company, sector and industry and interact with a widening assortment of colleagues, vendors, suppliers and customers. Thus, it is imperative to understand our own identity issues, whether we are part of minority group or part of the majority sub-culture. Ideally, we would all strive to better understand our own cultural identity and achieve higher levels of identity integration.
 While in Graduate School, studing Career Counseling, one of my professors said something that has stuck with me for all these years. Though the Graduate Course and specific, Professor are long forgotten, his words are not. He said "Career Counseling is Personal Counseling. You cannot provide any input or support for a person's career, without truly understanding the person." To this day, I still use this philosophy to guide my counseling work. Whenever I am stumped, I try to learn more about my client, their family of origin, their community, their cultural context, their racial identity and where they grew up. All of these societal influences are intimately linked to who we are, the lives we lead and the career choices we make.

In my immediate family of origin, which includes 4 members, each of us was born in a different country and speaks a different, native language. Numerous languages, religions and cultural traditions are also evident in my extended family. Though I spent my formative years in Vancouver, British Columbia, I have lived, worked and traveled in many countries. All of this has peaked my interest and career passion for Global and Diversity issues.Diversity in the workplace

Currently, I work as a Global MBA Career Counselor, at a major American University and Business school. I provide career services to a population of 600 to 800 Graduate, MBA students each semester. My clients include a diverse, cross section of professionals from diverse ethnic, cultural, language and geographic groups. For example, one of my Global Partners MBA classes had 23 students and they represented 16 different ethnic, geographic, racial and language groups.

Definition of a Culturally Competent Counselor
"Possess the ability to recognize their self-values, assumptions, and biases. Ability to understand their own level of identity development (Janet Helms White Racial Identity Model) Effective, multicultural career counseling requires a much broader world-view and broader exposure to a variety of cultures."

Have a look at the stages of Minority Identity Development. Begin to think about where you fit in, and where your family members, friends and coworkers fit in. Look at the interplay of identity and your close inter-personal relationships. Each of us must understand where we came from in order to effectively plan where we are going. Understanding our stage of identity development will help us interact effectively in an increasingly diverse workplace.

Minority Identity Development  (Information below is excerpted from this URL posting)
Stage 1: Conformity

By the time children enter the school system, they have the beginnings of identity development

Preference for the values and norms of the dominant culture
Strong desire to assimilate into the dominate culture
Negative self-deprecating attitudes toward themselves and their racial group
Attitudes toward the dominant group are positive


I didn't remember my background and I was never taught to be proud of my African heritage. We talked about it in class, but, I identified with my oppressors and wanted to accepted by them. Even to the point of hating my own race and myself for being a part of it. Now I am ashamed that I ever was ashamed.

Stage 2: Dissonance

Individual begins to question pro-White attitude and behaviors
Individuals alternate between self- and group-appreciation and deprecating attitudes and behaviors

I have become much more aware of racism that exists around and am now bothered by certain acts and behaviors. Before when racial comments were said around me I would somehow ignore it and pretend that nothing was said to protect myself It became sort of a defense mechanism. I never realized I did this. I feel as if I have reached the first step. I also think I have reached the second step, because longer ignore such comments, but now confront them.

Stage 3: Resistance and Immersion
Individuals embrace their own racial/ethnic group completely
Blind endorsement of one's group and all the values/attitudes attributed to the group
Individuals accept racism and oppression as a reality
Rejection of the values and norms associated with the dominant group
Empathic understanding and an overpowering ethnocentric bias

I am angry about the way Native American people have been treated in this country. I don't think I will easily overcome that and I basically feel justified in my feelings. We are concerned about the well-being of our own people. They cannot be well if they have this pinned-up hatred for their own. Internalized racism is something that we all felt, at various times, needed to be talked about.

Stage 4: Introspection

Individuals develop a security in their racial identity that allows questioning of rigid Resistance attitudes
Re-direct anger/negativity toward "White system" to exploration of individual and group identity issues
Conflict between allegiance to one's own ethnic group and issues of personal autonomy
Individuals acknowledge there is variation amongst all groups of people

I have been aware for a long time that I am Korean. I am beginning to find out that White people can be accepting of me and at the same time accept me as a Korean. I grew up wanting to be accepted and ended up almost denying my race and culture. As I grew older, I realized that I was different and for the first time became, friends with other Koreans.”

Stage 5: Synergetic Articulation and Awareness
Characterized by a sense of self fulfillment with regard to racial identity, confident and secure
Desire to eliminate all forms of oppression
High level of positive regard toward self and toward one's group
Respect and appreciation for other racial/cultural groups
Openness to constructive elements of the dominant culture

The stages of Identity may not be linear, or sequential. You may be in more than one stage simultaneously.

An individual session I had last week, was a perfect illustration of the importance of identity. Also, this session was the inspiration for this Blog Posting.  The initial reason for the session or “identified problem” was not really the issue at all. In fact, the individual was struggling with “minority identity” issues but didn’t have the knowledge or words to articulate this problem.

In our session, the client learned about the implications of Minority Identity on Career Transitions and Role Confusion. They saw where they fit into this model. This made a world of difference to the client and had an immediate impact. After our session, I emailed the client the “Minority Identity Model below.” Being able to read about identity issues and pinpoint what stage you are at can often explain angst in other areas of career and life. Suddenly, it all made sense.

Here is the email I received a few days after the session.

“Thanks! I'll take a look at this! I feel A TON better --took your advice. Yesterday was awesome and today is going just as well.”

I hope this article inspires you to read more about your own Cultural Identity and to work towards increasing your global exposure and inter-cultural competency.

Additional Reading
Readers Choice Awards: Top 10 Best Diverisity and Salary posts.

Readers Choice Awards: Top 10 Best Global Job Search Posts

Stages of identity as it pertains to African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Sexual Minorities LBGT.

Identity Model for people in the dominant, Causasian/White culture 

 Top companies which hire diversity candidates
Author: © 2009 - All Rights Reserved – Sharon Cohen, MA,Dip.Educ, CPRP. MBA Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonbcohen/

Read my other Career Blog Postings http://mycareermanager.blogspot.com/


  1. Great presentation. I do appreciate with your post. Career planning is very important when we access a groups of people. Many Thanks.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Hi, this Tina Gupta from Mumbai, India.

    Thats a nice write up!

    I did my MBA from Sikkim Manipal University Distance Education. They too provide awesome courses in management and IT, with no entrance exams and with reasonable fees too. They have their centers all over and you can take transfer courses where you want.

    I had fun while studying with SMUDE.

    S. Cohen (author)

    I am so glad my blog posts are reaching a diverse, global audience of business professionals. You may enjoy my other international,career articles.

    Impact of the International Stimulus Package on International Workers http://tinyurl.com/2eq9sju.

    The American Brain Drain and International MBA's http://tinyurl.com/25bd8pw