Dreaming of flying when grounded: Occupational identity and occupational fantasies of furloughed airline pilots

A.L. Fraher, Y. Gabriel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)
231 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This article analyses the effects of job loss on the occupational identities of a group of United States pilots, laid off (or 'furloughed') twice by their employer in the decade following 9/11. Using a narrative methodology, the paper examines how the childhood dream of flying, referred to as the Phaëthon dream, serves as an identity anchor that sustained their occupational identities. When the circumstances of the aviation industry (restructuring, outsourcing, and downsizing) led to extensive lay-offs, this identity anchor functioned in two contrasting ways. Some pilots moved on to retrain and start new careers, without abandoning their occupational identities or relinquishing the dream of flying. Another group of pilots, however, were stuck in occupational limbo waiting to be recalled by their employer, unwilling to forsake this dream and refusing to contemplate a move that would decisively take them out of their pilot seats. The paper's contribution lies in theorizing how a dream originating in childhood, linked to a long-standing archetype of flying and subsequently hardened into a shared occupational fantasy, acts as an identity anchor and how this shapes responses to the trauma of job loss. The paper concludes by linking the Phaëthon dream to its mythological counterpart in order to highlight its enduring, shared, and unconscious character.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)926-951
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of management studies
Volume51
Issue number6
Early online date27 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2014

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