Original Research

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

Nasreen A. McGowan, Lusanda Sekaja
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 48 | a1902 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v48i0.1902 | © 2022 Nasreen A. McGowan, Lusanda Sekaja | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 April 2021 | Published: 10 June 2022

About the author(s)

Nasreen A. McGowan, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Lusanda Sekaja, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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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

diary study; impression management; industrial and organisational psychology; interns; internship; South Africa

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