School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Nathan J. Borrett


Virtual work, Identification, Socialization




Virtual work has been increasing throughout the years with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating that growth. However, the effects of virtual work remain, leaving much to be known about what experiences virtual employees have with their organization that lead to diverse outcomes. This qualitative phenomenological study explored how virtual employees experienced organizational socialization and organizational identification early in their organizational tenure. The theoretical framework for this study used Blau’s (1964) social exchange theory (SET) and Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) Social identity theory (SIT). Data from 13 participants’ semi-structured interviews were analyzed by the researcher using Heidegger’s (1889–1976) interpretive hermeneutic spiral along with Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis. Analysis identified six themes within the data (a) virtual freedom (b) virtual isolation (c) communication and support (d) relationships through human experiences (e) managerial support belonging, and (f) recognition and value. Findings indicated participants experienced organizational socialization primarily through co-worker support, which was driven by collaboration. Collaboration occurred through video calls, and as a necessity to complete work, or through a friend in the organization. Tangible recognition of participants made them feel connected and part of the organization; direct supervisors were often seen as representations of the organization, and support from them was synonymous with support from the organization. The findings enable meaningful insight for theory and practice. Implications for practice include a buddy system to pair new employees with, and tangible artifacts, such as T-shirts or mugs to increase organizational salience and enhance virtual employees’ organizational identification.

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