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        Faculty, Research, Systems and Technology

        As business and associated technologies evolve, users’ identities change with them

        May 6, 2021 By Harbert College of Business

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        “We must confront this kind of inherent conflict between trying new things. Technology, IT in particular, is by definition new, which means there is going to be inconsistency with your prior behavior. How do you move beyond this impasse? I think I have a good solution.”                                                                                      — Kevin Craig, Assistant Professor in Systems and Technology

        The Harbert College is dedicated to producing research that advances the academy, extends business thought and shapes best practice.

        Recently published research by Dr. Kevin Craig, Assistant Professor in Systems and Technology at the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University, shows that rapidly emerging technologies may slowly rob some employees of their self-esteem in the workplace. His co-authored paper, “The IT Identity Threat: A Conceptual Definition and Operational Measure,” published in the Journal of Management Information Systems, explored individuals’ relationships with -- and resistance to -- technology as it grows more complex.

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        Dr. Kevin Craig, Assistant Professor in Systems and Technology at the Harbert College.


        IT Identity Threat, as defined in the paper, is evoked when users anticipate harm to their identities (i.e., how they see themselves), reflected by lower levels of self-esteem in their personal assessment of themselves or value to their organization.

        Whether it is an advanced system for charting patient records in hospitals or new software to maintain corporate budgets, adapting to new technology can impact job performance.

        Dr. Craig’s research focused on employee concerns which led them to question whether they will still be good at their job when confronting or being asked to embrace advanced technology. It was noted that as new IT comes in, an employee’s belief about their competency takes a hit. This is particularly common with technology because of the associated learning curve.

        One key finding from his research is management needs to confront head on this inherent employee conflict between trying and resisting emerging technologies. With note that technology -- IT in particular – is by definition, new, IT-related change is likely to cause a temporary decline in employee performance. It is critical that top managers develop employee cultures that embrace learning processes.

        His research surmises that management should first ask themselves, ‘How do I get people to do their jobs while using new technologies that they might not want?’ From there, management can take the steps necessary to help employees restructure their goals in ways that will help them build their new social identity and importantly help them build their self-esteem as learners of a new system.

        Dr. Craig’s research is particularly helpful in explaining why future generations of intrusive and personal technologies might be rejected by some users. However, when that fear is addressed upfront, management can point the way toward helping individuals adapt to and embrace the many benefits that will be derived through their use of emerging technologies.

        Dr. Kevin Craig worked for more than 10 years as a software developer and project manager before working toward his PhD in information systems. His research interests include resistance to technology, how stereotypes affect workplace communication and career choices, and how identity-related factors such as culture and social group affiliation impact technology use.

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