Identity at work: Developing and using an integrated approach to explore the role of identity (both as a struggle and as a resource) in a knowledge intensive organizational setting

  • Philippa Kindon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research explores the role of identity within a knowledge intensive organizational setting in which frequent change, ambiguous work, autonomous work practices, and pervasive client relationships mean that organizational members face many complex challenges in their day-to-day work life. On the basis of a longitudinal, multi-level, intra-and inter-organizational study of a group of people within a regional marketing agency, an integrated approach is proposed and developed as a way to explore and emphasise the complex role of identity, as both a resource and a struggle, in this organizational setting. The approach is generated from iterative cycling between data and existing theory in which the concepts of social identities and identity work are drawn together as a way to provide insight into the role of identity within the research setting. The research participants are seen to engage in identity work in order to create, change, protect and switch between multiple work-related social identities. It is argued that this is a crucial part of agency work, which agency employees work hard to achieve. It is also argued that they use this ‘fluid framework’ of identity as way of dealing with some of the challenges of their everyday work. The research itself is underpinned by a methodology guided by symbolic interactionism. The conceptualisation of identity as an ongoing process with occasional pauses is rooted in the Meadian concept of the ‘I’ and the ‘me’. The contribution of this study to the developing field of identity and organizations is in the building of a conceptual bridge between those whose main concern is with the dynamics of identity creation and those whose main concern is with the product or outcome of identity processes. A practical contribution is also made to further understanding identity at work through the insights gained within this research setting.
Date of Award1 Sept 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorNicholas Kinnie (Supervisor) & Ian Colville (Supervisor)

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