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Human “Resources”? Objectification in Organizational Contexts
Keywords: Objectification; Organizations; Person Perception; Mindset
Abstract: People seem to behave differently when at work than not at work; for example, they seem less interested in making friends and use more transactional language (“networking” vs. “socializing”). These anecdotal examples hint at a broader psychological phenomenon: that people engage in more objectification—treating people akin to objects—in organizational (workplace) contexts than personal contexts. We predicted that objectification occurs more in organizational (vs. personal) contexts because people engage in more calculative and strategic thinking (e.g., computing the costs and benefits of interacting with someone). Furthermore, we predicted that organizations vary on how much they elicit such thinking, and that this variation can predict the extent to which people feel valued and want to stay in the organization. Four studies test these predictions, providing support for them. Together, these studies provide insight into how objectification can arise, where it occurs, and its consequences.