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Identity boundaries and transitions in current work environments Dr Kate Mackenzie Davey Head of Department of Organizational Psychology.

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Presentation on theme: "Identity boundaries and transitions in current work environments Dr Kate Mackenzie Davey Head of Department of Organizational Psychology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Identity boundaries and transitions in current work environments Dr Kate Mackenzie Davey Head of Department of Organizational Psychology

2 Work and identity Outline classic approaches to work and identity Focus on identity and transition Describe recent research –Occupational image and identity –Boundaries and identity

3 Work and social identity Social identity theory (Tajfel, Haslam, 2000) –Self categorisations –Ingroup-outgroup –Maintain positive self image –Socialised Organizational/occupational identity –Individuals are socialised to identify with organizations or occupations to which they belong (Elsbach and Kramer, 1996) Role identification: internalisation of values and beliefs (affective and cognitive components) through socialisation (Ashforth & Mael, 1989)

4 Social construction Social constructionism emphasises ongoing identity work (Sveningsson and Alvesson 2003) Identity is fluid, fragmented, socially constructed through language, negotiated in interactions and contingent on context. Identity is something people perform or do rather than something they have. (Smith and Sparkes 2008: 25). The self is constructed by and through language and identities are performed within relationships, done in interactions and/or talked into being (Smith and Sparkes 2008: 25). Rather than having one fixed, all purpose identity, individuals can invoke a range of identities according to different circumstances and different needs.

5 Performative identity (Butler, 1999) Calls the subject into question: not natural Asserting ways of doing identity to cause trouble for oppositional identity Identity enacted Performance without a separate performer Parodic proliferation undermines dialectic: drag The laugh of recognition is the occasion of insight Performative acts and a performative economic context (Case & Pineiro, 2006) Discourse a connected set of statements, concepts, terms and expressions which constitutes a way of talking..about a particular issue, thus framing the way people understand and act with respect to that issue (Watson, 1994, p.113) Particular interests become taken for granted Productive and reflective of power relations Constructs identities and subject positions

6 Continuity and change Focus on stability and continuity Links to maintaining identity and stable self concept (Sugarman, 2001) External continuity: context, familiar environment, activity, people. Pressure to maintain career and construct cv accordingly Internal continuity: maintenance of sense of identity: our awareness of consistent structure of ideas, temperament, affect, experiences, preferences, dispositions, skills (Atchley,1989) Career embeddedness (Cooper & Mackenzie Davey, 2011) Change seen as in line with capacity to cope (Atchley,1989) Emplotment (Cochran, 1997) a comforting story we tell ourselves Nicholson & West (1988)

7 Institutionalised socialization (Jones, 1986, Saks et al 2007) Which of these apply to the armed services? Collective or individual Formal or informal Sequential or random Fixed or variable Serial or disjunctive Investiture or divestiture Leads to passive acceptance of pre-set roles Reproduces the status quo Reduces uncertainty Reduced role ambiguity Reduced role conflict Lower intention to quit Increased fit to job and organization Increased job satisfaction, commitment, performance Custodial approach to role Reduced innovation

8 Transition stages Hayes et al 1976 Immobilisation Minimization Depression Letting go Testing Searching Internalization This is based on studies of bereavement. Is it appropriate for all work transitions?

9 Work role transitions Any move into and/or out of a job, any move between jobs, or any major alteration in the content of work duties and activities (Nicholson & West, 1988)

10 Transition cycle (Nicholson 1987) Encounter II Sense making copying Adjustment III Personal change Role innovation relationships Stabilisation IV Commitment effectiveness Preparation (I&V) Expectation, desire

11 Transition cycle Nicholson 1987 Preparation –expectation –desires –resources Encounter: –coping –sensemaking Adjustment: –personal change, –role innovation, –developing relationships Stabilization: –commitment –effectiveness

12 Identity and work Identity research indicates that people typically seek to see themselves in a positive light, and this positive sense of self is largely grounded in socially important and salient roles - including occupations- and how these roles are perceived by others. (Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999:413)

13 Investment bankers, stigma and identity Kate MacKenzie-Davey and Liz Stanley



16 What does it feel like to be an investment banker in the face of this hostility?

17 Coping with stigma and taint at work Established body of research on dirty work – occupations that are physically, morally or socially tainted Despite acknowledging the stigma, individuals often maintain positive, self-esteem enhancing work identities Ashforth & Kreiner (1999, 2007) argue people normalise taint by engaging in proactive tactics to counter it –developing occupational ideologies –creating social buffers –confronting client and public perceptions –defensive tactics, both cognitive and behavioural –blaming – distancing from clients and role Static, based on existing rather than changing stigma

18 Defensive reframing Little use of occupational ideologies, social buffers or confrontation as tactics Some (limited) reframing to stress banks importance I mean, whatever way you look at it, banks are, are a critical component of any functioning society, You cant do without banks, okay, so there is the need for some perspective on the whole thing. I feel okay. If we werent here, well thered be lots of other people that wouldnt be working out there. Most tactics were defensive – behavioural and cognitive

19 Social comparison Most common tactic was social comparison – differentiating self from others you judge more harshly Um, so you get this phenomena that the banks overcharging kind of retail customers, and you get tarred almost with that brush, working in banking, being a banker Um, well the industry isnt all that bad, okay? I think that the industry on the whole isnt like that at all. Its just that there are a few areas in the industry that are like that. Um, I feel quite resentful actually about, um, if, if Im honest, I feel quite resentful about the fact that, you know, a relatively small number of people, um, have caused quite a big problem.

20 Distancing Distancing from role was common as people stressed separation of personal and work identity I think the problem is slightly different in that the circle of people I mix with are not… don't tend to be professional people, so family and friends are not professionals. So I don't think they… this sounds as though it's… I'm not saying they don't comprehend, but it's just not… So they… I'm just the same person that I've always been. Even now most, most of the people we socialise with now 20 years on have no clue what I do. Ah, its quite tricky, because its very, its very varied, so some people in our little local village where we… we dont socialise with people of our own profession so we very rarely socialise with people in the industry, and we live in a tiny little village. Out there,we dont socialise with people in the industry.

21 Taint and banker identities in the financial crisis Nature of the taint –Where taint established, more time to develop occupational ideologies and shared responses –For bankers faced with emerging taint, no established resources to draw on –Attack on character of people not nature of work Nature of the workers –More collectivism in low prestige occupations –Banking culture focused on individual performance and reward, not unionised Strength of taint –Values focussed as personal and separate from occupation

22 Press representation and individual identity Case of Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch and the position of female soldiers in the USA..the two most famous American soldiers to emerge from the war in Iraq are women:Fessica Lynch and Lynndie England […] On a startling number of basic resume entries, Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch have an awful lot in common. Then again, the last time I saw a photograph of Lynch, she was at the White House Correspondents Dinner with Ben Affleck, who told her she was even more beautiful in person, while the last time I saw a photo of England, she had a naked Iraqi man on a leash (Chicago Sun-Times, May 12) Cited in Just (2006)

23 Image and identity Identity is social and linked to groups Group image impacts on individual identity Some occupational groups have a more publicly recognised identity Press coverage influences and may create identity positions available to members of occupations (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991). Mismatches between perceived personal and occupational identity may create discomfort Need to make sense of identity Responses may be to try to change the occupation or to leave.

24 Occupations and boundaries Strong occupational identities create boundaries between in- groups and out-groups Collaboration between these groups can present problems Partnership may present an alternative identity position (Hardy Lawrence & Grant, 2005) Individuals in boundary spanning roles may oscillate in their identification (Jarzabkowski, Sillince & Shaw, 2010) Ambiguity in collaborative relationships may be creative or provoke anxiety Especially complex in the NHS where there are power and status differentials between groups

25 Occupational embeddedness (Ng & Feldman 2007) Teachers find it difficult to leave the profession even when unhappy with their work Occupations may embed individuals in work and social networks Occupations with a clear social identity provide status Social life may be focussed within the occupational group Structuring of time by work may impact on personal life Work life balance may impact the identities available to those in an occupation These occupations may be especially salient by eroding boundaries between personal and occupational identity

26 Doctors into management Medical directors have difficulties in practice Political context –New public management in NHS: Management v medicine –Regulation of medical standards Leadership: ambivalent, unclear –Charisma or instrumental (Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2004) –Competence framework Hybrid role: leadership and medicine Identity struggles –Social identity theory and transition (Turner, 1999; Haslam, 2001) –Critical discourse analysis and power (Fairclough, 2005) –Performativity and instability (Butler, 1999) NHS initially profession dominated achieved for the medical profession a constitutional position in the realm matched only by the Church and the Law (Parry & Parry 1976, p.208)

27 Doctors and managers Expert power (Blake & Mouton) Knowledge power (Foucault, 1963) Status Professional self regulation –Control by mutual consent, peer review Motivated by achievement Autonomy Maintaining skill Lengthy training and socialisation Legitimate power (Blake & Mouton) Motivated by advancement Maintaining the organization Hierarchical control Shifts in political context (Griffiths, DHSS1983) –Budgets –Performance indicators –Work load monitoring –Customer focus –Appraisal –Quasi-market to NPM & Clinical governance

28 Medical Directors: Hybrid role Senior doctor drawing a senior strategic consultant further into the management process (Ashburner Ferlie & Fitzgerald, 1996, p.9) Responsible for regulation difficult distasteful, time consuming and acrimonious work (Sir Liam Donaldson, 1994) Leadership Clinical manager at Trust Board level Bridge between medical staff and the board: creating alignment Ambiguous and variable despite competence framework

29 Doctors on management Managers as constraining –I think its again universally true and I think there is a bad case of it in the UK, that those doctors who take on these roles are viewed with a great deal of suspicion by their colleagues – the wish to remain unaccountable, autonomous, self propelling that most doctors have, means that those who take on the role might be seen as constraining, constricting, managing – are seen as unusual Translater –Some of the things the executive do – theyre always doing things which then have to repair. Theyre always writing letters of the sort that people in authority write to people, the sort of letter that gets right up your nose even before youve finished reading the first sentence. Theyve got an uncanny knack of doing that. The use of language. The worst ones come from HR…() So I get a lot of letters- I translate a lot of letters for the executive into things that are acceptable to the consultants

30 In the tribe.. But I am very protective, because by and large, these are, they are not only senior, but they are very busy people. I by and large like them, you know, I like my consultants, even the ones who have been real really irritating. I like them, they amuse me and Im very much part of their tribe, I feel. I am protective because these are busy people, they dont want to be drowned out by loads of s and loads and loads of stupid stuff coming out from people.. But an awful lot of people get into very managerial defensive talk, you know, and theyll be free with slight threats, which may be appropriate when you are talking to nurses or just general staff, but totally inappropriate for managerial staff, totally inappropriate when you are talking to doctors really I think it is important to keep a clinical hand on things because there is quite a serious danger that you end up aligning yourself possibly against your colleagues if you dont keep a hand on the clinical side of things......For a year or two youd probably still have a lot of credibility amongst clinical colleagues but I think increasingly as you get more remote from day to day clinical work, youd be, accusations would be made that youd lost the plot really and become a manager with a medical qualification rather than a doctor who manages. And I think theres quite a lot of, theres a big danger that if you stop doing medicine youd lose your colleagues very quickly

31 Losing credibility I have no wish in becoming a manager because if I become a manager the gap between me and my professional colleagues in medicine will be so great that they will say that,....that they will say..... well, they will say something! They will say goodbye to me so to speak. They wont be very keen on that. They wont respect me. Not only that I wont be able to do my job properly because I wont be able to act as a conduit from them to the executive if youre a medical director and you sit in your office, you lose the, your colleagues cease to regard you as a clinician, and you become totally a manager, whereas I think if you are out in the hospital, you actually know the problems other people experience and youve got to be talking to people and be around – gives people a chance to bend your ear which they do frequently….So thats good for me that I still feel that Im a clinician and thats always been my role. Thats actually very important. Its getting to do what I know how to do

32 Bridge or gatekeeper? Medical manager seen as bridge (Hoff 2001) and tribe member (Atun, 2003) Clinical credibility Translator or gatekeeper role distinct from medicine or management Undermines managerial role and reinforces special role of doctors –Trivialises management –Sustains divide –Subverts change

33 Hybrid roles –The ambiguity of the medical director role means that it is always defined relative to medicine and management. –Medical identity robust and yet continuously needing to be performed. –Hybrid roles difficult to achieve: Tend to recreate binary opposition. –Medical management can be seen as more difficult than clinical practice. This undermines some elite claims for medicine and has implications for identity. –Medical Directors struggle with bridge vs. gatekeepers dialectic … Medical directors: doctors in drag?

34 Summary Identity is central to work It is embedded in social groups and social practices Socialization can have a powerful impact on identity Identity positions may be created or threatened by outside accounts And by the boundaries between work and non work Powerful occupational identities create boundaries between professions Maintenance of a positive identity is an ongoing project and many current events will influence change

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