Critical management scholars have emphasized that organizations’ attempts to regulate employees’ identities can prompt the reproduction or transformation of self-identity. The emotional consequences of identity regulation, however, remain largely unexamined. This article explores the experiences of eight management consultants in the British office of a global consulting firm over several months. Interviews and observations were analysed according to the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis. The results of the study highlight consultants’ identification with an organizationally inspired elite discourse alongside high levels of commitment and the presence of a counter-intuitive yet significant status anxiety. Drawing on psychological and sociological theories that connect identity and anxiety, this article suggests that the continual promotion of an elite identity within the consulting firm leaves many of the consultants feeling acutely anxious about their status.
- identity work
- identity regulation
- interpretative phenomenological analysis
- management consultants
- status anxiety