More Than Meets the Eye: The Role of Immigration Background for Social Identity Effects

David J.G. Dwertmann, Florian Kunze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The number of immigrants worldwide has grown rapidly in recent years, and their integration poses challenges, such as cultural and language barriers, for organizations and societies. Securing and maintaining employment is a key challenge for immigrants, yet management research has devoted little attention to migration. We aim to contribute to the emerging literature on this topic by utilizing a multistudy approach with objective and time-lagged field data from 14,327 mail carriers nested in 737 units of a large Swiss logistics firm and an experimental audio vignette study with 262 participants from the United Kingdom. We investigate whether (in)congruence in terms of immigration background between employees and customers is linked to customer complaints. Controlling for service quality, we find that both congruence scenarios (both or neither migrants) are associated with fewer complaints, the latter suggesting that migrants identify with each other despite national and cultural differences. Results from the two incongruence scenarios show increased complaints. In Study 1, we find that units that receive more complaints experience higher rates of voluntary employee withdrawal behaviors (short-term absenteeism and voluntary turnover), highlighting how unfair customer complaints can hurt organizations twice, by increasing the risk of loss in both customers and employees. In Study 2, we replicate the immigrant identity effect at the individual level and find that social attraction mediates the (in)congruence–complaints link.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2074-2104
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


  • absenteeism
  • diversity
  • homophily
  • identification
  • identity
  • immigrants
  • migrants
  • relational demography
  • turnover
  • voluntary withdrawal behavior


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