A Social Constructivist Approach to Understanding Belonging in the Workplace

Beth Kaplan Kondonijakos, University of Pennsylvania


Belonging is a critical human need that has historically been fulfilled through family, religion, and community. Today, however, people now look to the workplace to nurture their sense of belonging. Companies strive to create a sense of belonging in the workplace because employees with a higher sense of belonging are more engaged, which leads to higher productivity and retention. Yet, there is no standard framework for understanding belonging in the workplace and what authentic belonging looks like. Individuals constantly evaluate who they are and where they belong, and if their sense of belonging in the workplace is not secure, they may not obtain self-actualization and their full potential may not be achieved. Through a qualitative methods approach, this exploratory study examined how employees perceive and experience belonging in the workplace, and the role that the workplace—including the effect of managers—has in influencing an individual’s sense of belonging. The goal of the study was to understand belongingness in the workplace. Four key findings emerged from this exploratory study: 1) there are multiple experiences of belonging in the workplace; 2) sense of belonging is determined by the individual and has a profound impact on well-being; 3) belonging is a complex socially constructed experience; 4) new and tenured managers need different belonging strategies in the workplace.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Kondonijakos, Beth Kaplan, "A Social Constructivist Approach to Understanding Belonging in the Workplace" (2021). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28775604.