Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (PhD)


Industrial/Organizational Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Paul Yost

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Helen Chung

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Tanya Boyd


differentiation of self, functional differentiation, family systems theory, metalepsis, narrative identity processing, sensemaking


Humans use personal narratives to bring a sense of order and stability to life situations; especially when events are experienced as negative or threatening. As an employee encounters a workplace event that does not align with their understanding of the organization, termed a metaleptic moment, typical emotional reactions can include disengagement, tolerance, or resistance, or a non-emotional response of engagement. Family systems theory proposes that individuals who possess higher levels of differentiation have the ability to better manage the narrative crash. In this study, participants in the experimental group were given a 10-minute differentiation induction that would, when compared with the control group, show higher I position, and lower Emotional Reactivity, Emotional Cutoff, and Fusion with Others which, in turn, would affect organizational outcomes (higher levels of Awareness of Narrative Identity, higher levels of Affective Commitment to Supervisor, lower levels of Perceived Stress, and lower levels of Turnover Intent). Furthermore, competing hypotheses were tested to assess if gender and race/ethnicity moderated the relationship between condition (differentiation induction verses control) with differentiation and organizational outcomes. Results indicated that participants in the induction group showed significantly higher scores on I Position and Affective Commitment to Supervisor and significantly lower scores on Turnover Intent, the first evidence that differentiation may be induced in a relatively short intervention. Results also indicated that the induction did not interact with gender and race/ethnicity; however, contrary to criticisms that the theory is limited by a historical framing most applicable to White CIS Males, significantly higher scores on the differentiation dimensions were found for other groups indicating the potential applicability and need for further study of the theory with BIPOC group members. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed including proposed directions for future research.