October 05, 2017

10:00-11:00 a.m.

Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.

Can I come as I am? Refugees’ Vocational Identity Threats, Coping and Growth

Talk description:
Mari Kira will focus on the first findings from her an ongoing study focusing on identity threats, coping with identity threats, and psychological growth among refugees in Germany.  Her co-authors are Ute-Christine Klehe and Katja Wehrle from the University of Giessen, Germany, and Jelena Zikic, the York University, Canada. Their qualitative study is founded on 31 semi-structured interviews with refugees residing in Germany.

Kira and colleagues’ research confirm how, trying to re-establish their lives in a host country, refugees face multiple integration barriers in relation to work and society. We further explore how these barriers also threaten refugees’ fundamental identity needs for worth, distinctiveness, continuity, and control. Faced with such threats, the refugees in our study both protected their previous identities and restructured them to adjust to their new situation. Findings also highlight identity-threat jujitsu to both support the refugees’ identity-protection and create better connections between themselves and their environments. Further, we point to the act of resourcing as a form of buffering potential future hardships.

Both resourcing and coping with adversity were related to the potential for psychological growth. In addition to integrating to Germany by learning its local customs and practices, the refugees also reported both personal growth (e.g., growing more confident and resilient) and career-related growth (e.g.,  growing internally motivated and believing more in one’s skills). Unlike in earlier studies among migrants, the refugees’ stories revealed growth even when they were not able to return to their former work-related identities. Our study, therefore, offers new insights into how transition experiences impact refugees’ personal and career-related growth in the new country.

Mari Kira is an Assistant Research Scientist and Lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan (U-M), a core faculty member and Research Director at the Center for Positive Organizations, U-M, and a Docent of Organizational Behavior at the Aalto University School of Science, Finland. She defended her PhD thesis on sustainable work at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, in 2003 and was among the first scholars to study sustainability at work and in work organizations. She has worked as a European Commission Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Kassel in Germany, as an Academy Research Fellow at the Aalto University School of Science, and as a senior researcher at the University of Giessen, Germany. Her research focuses on sustainable work, i.e., on work that fosters employees’ psychological growth. By enriching and deepening, while also turning more positive, the way people define themselves and cognitively frame the world around them, psychological growth allows people to respond better to life’s challenges and benefit from its opportunities. In her qualitative research, she unravels the growth processes initiated both by positive and negative work experiences. In her recent and future research, she is focusing especially on the regenerating and integrating power of work in the lives of vulnerable populations, such as refugees and survivors of human trafficking.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubator here and direct questions about individual sessions to Amy Young at baldwin@umich.edu.