An Analysis Of Organizational
Socialization In The Marine Corps
SUBJECT AREA Manpower
AN ANALYSIS OF ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIALIZATION
IN THE MARINE CORPS
Rudolph V. Wiggins, Ph.D
In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
for Written Communications
The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Major R. B. McKittrick
United States Marine Corps
April 6, 1984
AN ANALYSIS OF ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIALIZATION
IN THE MARINE CORPS
Thesis Statement: I propose to evaluate the initial and subsequent
phase of the organizational socialization process focusing on certain
leadership characteristics identified by Rensis Likert in his book, The
Human Organization, Its Management and Value. These characteristics
I. Leadership Process Used
II. Motivational Forces
IV. Decision Making
V. Goal Setting
An Analysis of Organizational Socialization
In the Marine Corps
Edgar H. Schien in his treatise, Organizational Socialization and
the Profession of Management states, "Organizational socialization is
the process of 'learning the ropes,' the process of being indoctrinated
and trained, the process of being taught what is important in an
organization or some subunit thereof."1 The organizational
socialization process of a Marine to the Marine Corps is a process that
may be divided into two phases; the initial socialization phase and the
subsequent socialization phase. The organizational socialization
process is most crucial and has the greatest impact on a newly joined
Marine during his initiation into the Marine Corps. During the initial
phase, the newly joined Marine learns the value system, norms, and the
required behavior patterns of the Marine Corps. Although the
organizational socialization process is most critical during this
initial phase, the continued success and productivity of the Marine is
contingent upon the Marine Corps continuing to provide a subsequent
organizational socialization process. I propose to evaluate the initial
and subsequent phase of the organizational socialization process
focusing on certain leadership characteristics identified by Rensis
Likert in his book, The Human Organization, its Management and Value.
These characteristics are; the leadership process used, motivational
forces, communication, decision making, goal setting, and control.2
Leadership Process Used. The initial socialization phase of a
Marine in the Marine Corps is during Boot Camp for enlisted men and
women and Officer Candidate School for officers. During this period the
Marine is made aware of the purpose of the Marine Corps, which is to
accomplish a military mission through a well coordinated team as opposed
to individual effort. This designation of mission accomplishment as
more important than individuality is normally contrary to a Marine's
former civilian environment. Rarely in the civilian environment of a new
Marine (17-21 year olds) is concern for the mission or an objective more
important than the approval of peers or the maintaining of inter-
Another consideration in the leadership process used is adapting to
different leadership styles. In the military environment, concern for
the mission or task is an orientation usually associated with a
traditional leader whose attitude is characterized by concern for
getting the job done even if it is at the expense of the individual
Marine. The other predominant leadership style found in the military is
the human resources leader. This leadership style is characterized by
the leader recognizing a Marine's input regarding what he has to say
about his job as valid and that it is important to fulfill his
psychological as well as physical needs. But, the new Marine is taught
that a leader who is more concerned about troop welfare than mission
accomplishment is a detriment to the organization. For example, in the
classic World War II movie about the Air Force, "Twelve O'clock High,"
Frank Savage (played by Gregory Peck) is asked to take over a bomber
group from a Commanding Officer whom everyone loves and respects but
whose over-identification with his men and concern about human resources
have resulted in an outfit that is not producing and hurting the war
effort.3 The new Marine in the initial phase is organizationally
socialized that a Marine leader is to be primarily concerned about the
accomplishment of the mission and then the welfare of the troops.
During the subsequent socialization phase Marines are taught the
objectives of Marine Corps leadership through an annual Leadership
Training Program.4 The emphasis of the Leadership Training Program is
that a Marine leader cannot accomplish the mission without an equal
consideration for the welfare of the troops. In the subsequent
socialization phase the individual Marine is considered equally with the
Motivational Forces. According to Frederick Herzberg, motivational
forces in the work environment may be classified into two categories:
satisflers and motivators.5
Satisfiers in the work environment include those basic elements that
result in satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the job. Some examples
of these basic elements are the working conditions, quality of inter-
personal relationships on the job, salary and fringe benefits, company
policies and leadership styles. It is Herzburg's contention that if an
individual's satisfier requirements only are met, he may continue to be
a member of the organization but, in all probability will not be a
productive one. The Marine is initially, and then subsequently,
organizationally socialized not to be significantly motivated by
satisfiers. Working conditions are often austere, the development of
interpersonal relationships is stressed both on and off the job because
teamwork is necessary for success in combat, the salary will not make
anyone rich, and the leadership style is authoritarian not democratic.
Motivators in the work environment include those elements that
actually "drive" an individual to produce on the job and are basically
concerned with the job itself. Motivators include the recognition an
individual receives from the job, the challenge of the work, the sense
of achievement in performing the task, and the opportunity for increased
responsibility on the job. Marines are organizationally socialized to
be "motivated" not only about themselves as Marines, but also the
mission of the Marine Corps. The Marine is recognized for the job he
does and is imbued with a sense of history about what Marines have
accomplished who have gone before. The sense of challenge in being a
Marine is instilled in Boot Camp and Officer Candidate School and as a
Marine achieves success in the Corps, a personal sense of achievement is
also developed. The Marine is encouraged to seek responsibility, and is
rewarded in doing so by being promoted, decorated, or recognized.
The major implication of Herzberg's two factor theory is that no
matter how satisfying a job is, increased performance results from the
presence of the motivational factors. This accounts for the fact that
some individuals are satisfied with their jobs, but not motivated by
them. During the initial socialization phase, the motivation that is
instilled in a Marine is that the job itself or being a Marine is
rewarding. The motivation is intrinsic. In the subsequent
socialization phase, emphasis is placed on a Marine being a
"professional." A professional is motivated by both intrinsic and
extrinsic means, and this is reflected in individual proficiency.
Proficiency is the technical, tactical and physical ability of the
Marine to perform the job or mission.
Communication. Jack Gibb in his book, Defensive Communication
subscribes to two communication styles that are applicable to the
initial and subsequent organizational socialization process of a Marine.
They are; defensive and supportive.6
The defensive communication style is a one-way, senior to
subordinate communication. During the initial socialization phase, the
defensive communication style is utilized and often causes the Marine to
feel threatened. This style is reflected in the new Marine believing
that he is being evaluated, both personally and professionally, that he
is being controlled and manipulated, that the Marine's senior is not
sensitive to individual needs, and that he is being treated as a less
than competent individual.7 These examples of the defensive
communication style are implemented during the initial phase of a Marine
for a specific reason: to break down or remove any vestiges of the
civilian way of thinking or acting. During Boot Camp or Officer
Candidate School part of the training program includes a process that
reduces all individuals to a common denominator and then rebuilds them
to reflect Marine Corps philosophy and discipline. The defensive
communication style is utilized as a means to an end only and is not
consistent with the daily treatment of Marines after their initial
The supportive communication style is a two-way, senior to
subordinate communication. During the subsequent socialization phase
the supportive communication style is predominant. This style is
reflected in the Marine believing that his senior takes a non-judgmental
approach to him personally and professionally, that his potential and
contributions to the organization are valued, that he does not feel
manipulated, that his senior cares about his needs, and that his senior
does not treat him as inferior because of his lower rank.8 These and
other examples of the supportive communication style are utilized
throughout the Marine's career. The objective of this communication
style is to maintain the effectiveness and efficiency of a Marine in his
role as a member of a force-in-readiness.
Although the objective after the initial socialization phase is the
supportive communication style, Marine leaders unable to cope with
contemporary leadership problems often revert to the defensive
communication style which further compounds real or perceived problems.
The supportive communication style is taught and stressed in leadership
training programs and in Marine Corps Schools, both formal and informal.
Decision Making. During the initial socialization phase the
participation of a Marine in the decision making process is minimal.
This reflects that the organizational structure, provisions for
channeling information and authority, power allotment and the assignment
of responsibility are all very narrowly defined.9 The decision making
process is initially utilized in situations where conflict is a natural
reaction to this process. The new Marine is to eliminate any individual
differences and develop a team approach that supports the decision of
the Marine in charge. This is turn develops organizational unity,
cohesion, and facilitates assimilation of the Marine into the Marine
Another aspect of the decision making process that should be
addressed is the chain of command. Although the structure of the Marine
Corps may limit individual interactions by prescribing "chain of
command" and "channels of communication" that dictate which Marines may
and which may not interact with each other, it serves the function of
reinforcing required discipline. The Scalar principle or chain of
command in the Marine Corps carries an implicit right to command others.
This right is derived from a Marine who holds a higher rank and has the
authority to command Marines with lower ranks on the vertical
organizational structure. The Scalar principle provides a scale, or
grading, of duties according to degrees of authority and
During the subsequent socialization phase, the emphasis is on Marine
participation in the decision making process. Although the final
decision rests with the Marine in charge, Marines are encouraged to
provide input into the decision making process. The Marine is also
trained that once the decision has been made, personal or petty
differences are put aside, and there is a joint team effort to
accomplish the mission. The chain of command reinforces the leaders,
but also allows the individual Marine redress to real or perceived
problems that have developed in his working environment. The chain of
command does not silence questions or complaints, but rather channelizes
them. Typical problems or complaints raised by Marines are that they
are excluded from the decision making process or are asked to provide
token input. Marine Corps training by rank or grade continues to
emphasize that the most reasoned decisions are made by encouraging
Marines to actively participate in the decision process. Active
participation incorporates offering and requesting ideas, opinions and
suggestions. The development and maintenance of an effective decision
making process enhances the leadership abilities of the individual
Goal Setting. When organizational goals are shared by all, this is
what McGregor calls a "true integration of goals."11 During the initial
socialization phase the Marine Corps plays an active role in goal
setting and in advance establishes the criteria for acceptable
individual performance. The new Marine is directed to accomplish Marine
Corps goals through a variety of training exercises and methods. The
attainment of these goals is vital to the effectiveness of the Corps and
the Marine as an individual is subservient to the organization. But
during this initial phase the Marine begins to realize that Marine Corps
goals cannot be attained if the individual and units goals are not
attained. Although emphasis is on the attainment of Marine Corps goals,
its basis is in the attainment of the individual Marine and his unit's
During the subsequent socialization phase, the Marine Corps strives
to create a climate where Marines perceive that their goals are
satisfied as a direct result of working for the goals of the Marine
Corps. Consequently, the closer a Marine's goals and objectives to the
Marine Corps' goals, the better the performance of the Marine Corps.
One of the ways Marine leaders bridge the gap between the individual
Marine's goals and the Marine Corps' goals is by creating a loyalty to
the Marine Corps and the individual simultaneously. Marine leaders
communicate Marine Corps goals to their Marines and their Marines do not
find any difficulty in accepting these goals as compatible with their
own and in their ability to derive personal satisfaction and
accomplishment by implementing them.
Control. During the initial socialization phase the Marine is
exposed to authoritarian and rigid supervisory and job-related controls
that are expected to instill discipline in the new Marine. This degree
of control of the Marine's behavior does not permit him to modify his
behavior or actively participate in the decision making process. The
autocratic12 Marine leader controls the flow of communication between
himself and the new Marine for the same expressed purpose as previously
mentioned in the other categories of the organizational socialization
process--to reinforce Marine Corps behavior and discipline. The
organizational behavioral control over the new Marine is absolute. The
Marine's training day is completely structured and he has minimal
control over events during this process. But, as the initial
socialization phase nears completion, there is a perceptable switch by
the Marine leader in the emphasis of organizationally and individually
controlled behavior. Although organizationally controlled behavior is
still paramount, individually controlled behavior is encouraged within a
framework for developing a team effort.
This shifting of complete organizational control to some
consideration for individual control is preparing the new Marine for his
subsequent socialization phase. The Marine becomes a contributor to the
communication process and during leadership training it is stressed that
an effective leader understands and controls the two-way communications
process. The Marine becomes aware that the role of the leader is to
accomplish the mission and as a result the leader must have control of
his men. In order for the leader to be effective, the individual Marine
must exhibit the self-control that is required to maintain a successful
team. The proper amount of control that a leader needs to utilize is
determined by the situation, task, the Marines available and their
abilities. Effective control is a situational phenomenon. The manner
in which effective control is implemented varies considerably among
Marines and especially during the initial and subsequent socialization
phases. The effective leader will exert the control necessary to
accomplish the leadership objectives of mission accomplishment and troop
In conclusion, the Marine leaders' ability to lead is predicated upon
his ability to effectively organizationally socialize the Marine, both
initially and subsequently during the course of a Marine's career.
Marine leaders must be aware of the significant impact that the
organizational socialization process has in the aforementioned areas of
leadership, motivational forces, communication, decision making, goal
setting and control. Signiflcantly, I believe that the initial
socialization phase is the most crucial to the success of the Marine in
the Corps. Subsequent effective and relevant organizational
socialization will ensure that the Marine continues to be a productive
asset to the Corps. Marine leaders must also recognize the initial and
subsequent phase as two distinct aspects of the organizational
socialization process and not confuse them. Those who make the mistake
of attempting to implement initial organizational socialization in a
subsequent organizational socialization setting, will undoubtly alienate
the Marines and more importantly, fail to accomplish the mission. The
understanding and utilization of an effective organizational
socialization process in the Marine Corps will lead to the continued
accomplishment of the mission as well as the equal emphasis on the
welfare of the troops.
1Edgar H. Schien, Organizational Socialization and the Profession of
Management. An exerpt from Kolb, Dubin and McIntyre; Organizational
Psychology - A Book of Readings, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall
Inc., 1979, p. 10.
2Rensis Likert, The Human Organization, Its Management and Value, New
York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967, pp. 3-12.
3Hersey and Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior: Ultilizing
Human Resources, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1977, p.
4USMC, NAVMC 2657, USMC Annual Leadership Training, Headquarters Marine
Corps, Washington, D.C., 1976, Part 6.
5Frederick Herzberg, Work and the Nature of Man, New York: World
Publishing Co., 1966.
6Jack Gibb, Defensive Communication, Journal of Communication, 11, 1961,
7Kochler, Anatol and Applebaum, Organizational Communication - Behavior
Perspectives, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1976, pp. 142-153.
8Keith Davis, Human Behavior at Work, New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, 1977, pp. 133-134.
9T.P. Fenence, Organizational Communications Systems and the Decision
Process, Management Sciences, 12, 1970, B83-B96.
10Jerome L. Franklin, Down the Organization: Influence Processes Across
Levels of Hierarchy, Administrative Science Quarterly, June 1975, pp.
11Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprize, New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Company, 1960.
12R. White and R. Lippitt, Autocracy and Democracy, New York: Harper
and Row, 1960.
1. Davis, Keith. Human Behavior at Work, New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, 1977, pp. 133-134.
2. Fenence, T.P. Organizational Communications Systems and the
Decision Process, Management Sciences, 12, 1970, B83-B96.
3. Franklin, Jerome L. Down the Organization: Influence Processes
Across Levels of Hierarchy, Administrative Science Quarterly,
June 1975, pp. 153-164.
4. Gibb, Jack. Defensive Communication, Journal of Communication,
11, 1961, pp. 141-148.
5. Hersey and Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior:
Utilizing Human Resources, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-
Hall Inc., 1977, p. 121.
6. Herzberg, Frederick. Work and the Nature of Man, New York: World
Publishing Co., 1966.
7. Kochler, Anatol and Applebaum, Organizational Communication -
Behavior Perspectives, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston,
1976, pp. 142-153.
8. Likert, Rensis. The Human Organization, Its Management and Value,
New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967, pp. 3-12.
9. McGregor, Douglas. The Human Side of Enterprize, New York:
McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960.
10. Schien, Edgar H. Organizational Socialization and the Profession
of Management. An exerpt from Kolb, Dubin and McIntyre;
Organizational Psychology - A Book of Readings, Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1979, p. 10.
11. USMC, NAVMC 2657. USMC Annual Leadership Training, Headquarters
Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., 1976, Part 6.
12. White, R. and Lippitt, R. Autocracy and Democracy, New York:
Harper and Row, 1960.
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