I am (in) IT, I work for X (company)
I work for X (company), I am in IT
These are not the same. It tells me where the sense of belonging is, where home is, where loyalty may be, or divided. Both are neither good or bad. They express what they express. They are different.
Change IT for R&D, Commercial, Regulatory etc. if you wish.
But some tribes are particularly good at preserving their belonging. Medical doctors is one. ‘Being a medical doctor’ becomes part of some sort of special form of being that sticks. Lots of pages in social psychology manuals explain why, including one that made me think for many years, when I was briefly teaching Medical Psychosociology in the University: the so called ‘access to your body’. The plumber, the engineer, the roof fixer, the driver or your manager do not have (usually) access to your body. They may have access to your time, your money of your emotions but usually not your body. That is an anthropological privilege class one when looked through those lenses.
In my many years doing time in the pharmaceutical industry, I was always struck by the medics, some reporting to me, who would always put ‘the medic’ bit before the company paying the salary. ‘I am a doctor, I work for X (company) as Medical Director’ was always, always, far more prominent than “I work for X (company) as a Medical Director, coma, I am a medical doctor’
Here, the order of factors does change the product.
Similarly, for a company composed of parts or business units or acquired businesses
I am in Y (part of a company Z, or we ae just being acquired by Z)
I work for Y, now part of Z
I work for Z, hey just bought us, Y
Here, as well, the order of factors does change the product.
Months, even years after an acquisition, some groups or individuals have not made the transition yet. They still belong to the previous entity.
Also, the more de-centralised, devolved, an organization is, the more it is acting as a host, as an umbrella. As such, the overall brand may or may not be stronger than the individual de-centralised branded units. We see this all the time. People are often more loyal to a product-brand, or a service-brand, or, indeed a geography-brand, than ‘the firm’.
The issue is not whether the decentralised business units retain high level of loyalty and belonging for employees (what is wrong with that?) but whether the parent brand makes the whole thing even more attractive. The more decentralised, the greater the need for an overall glue, a neat common home to be. The onus to be a good magnet is on the host/umbrella/mother/father. Not on the children.