Identities in and around organizations: towards an identity work perspective

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There is an emergent identity work perspective that draws on multiple intertwined streams of established identities theorizing and identities-related research. This perspective is characterized loosely by five broad sets of assumptions: (i) selves are reflexive and identities actively worked on, both in soliloquy and social interaction; (ii) identities are multiple, fluid and rarely fully coherent; (iii) identities are constructed within relations of power; (iv) identities are not helpfully described as either positive or authentic; and (v) identities are both interesting per se and integral to processes of organizing. Recognition of an emergent identity work perspective is valuable in part because this may act as a counterbalance to centrifugal tendencies – fed by myopia, insularity and ethnocentrism – which might otherwise lead to blinkered research and fragmentation. The contribution of this article is to provide a baseline for identity work scholars, and to promote collective critical reflection on identities in and around organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1237
Number of pages33
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number7
Early online date25 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I gratefully acknowledge the insightful comments of the Editor, Mark Learmonth, and the four anonymous reviewers, on earlier versions of this article. The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • identity
  • identity work
  • identity work perspective
  • review
  • self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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