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A diary study of the impression management strategies utilised by industrial and organisational psychology interns

Nasreen A. McGowan,

Abstract:Orientation: When interns enter a new workplace, they are compelled to create and maintain a good impression through a range of image-enhancing behaviours. Impression management strategies can help interns to do this. Research purpose: This study aimed to understand the strategies used by industrial and organisational (I/O) psychology interns, their goals for using them and the targets of these strategies. Motivation for the study: Interns are generally new to the workplace and, as such, may not be aware of how to play the ‘social game’ to create positive impressions about themselves, be perceived in a positive light, gain projects to fulfil their internship requirements, and, where possible, gain full-time employment from the organisation. Research approach/design and method: A qualitative design was used. Data were collected from 14 I/O psychology interns in the form of diary entries and semi-structured interviews. Main findings: The thematic analysis revealed eight key impression management strategies, some existing and others novel: ingratiation, self-promotion, rendering favours, exemplification, professionalism, openness to learning, conformity and building strategic relationships. Practical/managerial implications: Industrial and organisational psychologists should develop workshops to assist interns in using impression management skills to create a positive internship experience and advance in their respective organisations. Contribution/value-add: The study adds theoretically (the study of impression management is relatively new in South Africa), practically (findings may help direct future I/O psychology interns to the correct strategies for creating a positive impression at work) and methodologically (diary studies are not common in qualitative organisational research).
Keywords: impression management / industrial and organisational / positive impression / diary study / I/O psychology interns / internship

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