Management Organizational Identity
Dennis Gioia, Yuliya Likhonina, Dana Gioia
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0061


The literature on organizational identity investigates the notion that organizations have identities in a fashion similar to but different from individual identities. Organizational identity is treated as an organization’s collective answer to the fundamental question, “Who are we as an organization?” This literature adopts multiple perspectives to understand the character of organizational identity, how it forms, how it changes, and how it affects various outcomes and aspects of organizational life and performance.

General Overviews

The following overviews not only include the article that served as the genesis of the concept of organizational identity (Albert and Whetten 1985), but also address various major perspectives on organizational identity, i.e., the relationship between individual and organizational identity (Gioia 1998), and whether organizations are best seen as “social actors” or “social constructions” (Corley, et al. 2006; King, et al. 2010; Whetten 2006; Whetten and Mackey 2002). These works also consider the various identity orientations of organizations (Brickson 2000, Brickson 2005), its comparisons to image and corporate identity (Cornelissen, et al. 2007), approaches to measuring the notion of identity for purposes of research (van Rekom and van Riel 2000), as well as a number of other “takes” on organizational identity (Labianca, et al. 2001; Whetten and Godfrey 1998). In addition, the articles set the stage for understanding organizational identity as one of the most wide-ranging and important recent concepts in organization study, its relationship to many other important concepts, and its implications for affecting organizational outcomes.

  • Albert, S., and D. Whetten. “Organizational Identity.” In Research in Organizational Behavior. Vol. 7. Edited by L. L. Cummings and M. M. Staw, 263–295. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1985.

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    Foundational paper that introduces and develops the notion of organizational identity as that which is central, continuous over time, and distinctive about an organization. Considers dual and multiple identities as applied to organizations. Develops an identity framework for the study of organizations from a series of empirical questions and hypotheses. An extended metaphor analysis explores various dimensions of identity.

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  • Brickson, S. L. “The Impact of Identity Orientation on Individual and Organizational Outcomes in Demographically Diverse Settings.” Academy of Management Review 25.1 (2000): 82–101.

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    The author contends that the current understanding of identification processes severely limits diversity research. She presents a model using organizational task and reward structures to explain personal, relational and organizational identity orientations. She concludes that a functioning relational identity highlights the benefits while mitigating the disadvantages often linked with diversity.

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  • Brickson, S. L. “Organizational Identity Orientation: Forging a Link between Organizational Identity and Organizations’ Relations with Stakeholders.” Administrative Science Quarterly 50 (2005): 576–609.

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    Introduces the concept of identity orientation in three distinct forms: individualistic, relational, and collectivistic. Employs qualitative and quantitative studies to assess identity orientation and concludes that the prominent features of organizational identity are based on organizational relationships with stakeholders, with emphasis on specific organizational variables as predictors of identity orientation rather than general organizational-level or individual-level variables.

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  • Corley, K. G., C. V. Harquail, M. G. Pratt, M. A. Glynn, C. M. Fiol, and M. J. Hatch. “Guiding Organizational Identity through Aged Adolescence.” Journal of Management Inquiry 15.2 (2006): 85–99.

    DOI: 10.1177/1056492605285930Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Advocates the use of pluralism in the study of organizational identity using clear definitions and core theoretical suppositions. Seeks to establish a reference point to guide organizational identity research by focusing on three questions: “What is the nomological net that embeds organizational identity? Is organizational identity ‘real’ (or simply metaphoric)? And how do we define and conceptualize organizational identity?”

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  • Cornelissen, J. P., S. A. Haslam, and J. M. T. Balmer. “Social Identity, Organizational Identity, and Corporate Identity: Towards an Integrated Understanding of Processes, Patternings and Products.” British Journal of Management 18 (2007): S1–S16.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2007.00522.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides an overview of social, organizational, and corporate identity. Although each of these areas tends to focus on different issues within identity, the authors argue that they all essentially agree on multiple characteristics of collective identities. They call for greater interaction between the different areas of identity in the pursuit of a more integrated understanding of processes, patterns, and products.

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  • Gioia, D. A. “From Individual to Organizational Identity.” In Identity in Organizations. Building Theory through Conversations. Edited by D. A. Whetten and P. C. Godfrey, 17–31. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1998.

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    Discusses the early origins of the idea of identity and provides an overview of the projection of the identity notion as a macro level concept. Articulates three different lenses for the study of organizational identity.

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  • King, B. G., T. Felin, and D. A. Whetten. “Finding the Organization in Organizational Theory: A Meta-Theory of the Organization as a Social Actor.” Organization Science 21 (2010): 290–305.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1090.0443Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Considers organizational identity according to the tenets of a social actor approach. Explores the implications of treating organizations as social actors in society by relying on two assumptions for conceptualization of this theory: external attribution and intentionality.

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  • Labianca, G., J. F. Fairbank, J. B. Thomas, D. A. Gioia, and E. Umphress. “Emulation in Academia: Balancing Structure and Identity.” Organization Science 12 (2001): 312–330.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.12.3.312.10101Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the inter-organizational emulation decisions made by the head administrators using a sample of American colleges and universities. Shows that emulation choices tend to focus on institutions that are similar not only in structure, but also in identity attributes. The study also shows that emulation based on upward comparisons associate with greater strategic change while downward comparisons associate with greater perceived external threat.

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  • van Rekom, J., and C. B. M. van Riel. “Operational Measures of Organizational Identity: A Review of Existing Methods.” Corporate Reputation Review 3.4 (2000): 334–350.

    DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.crr.1540124Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A review of how organizational identity has been operationalized and measured. Finds that the definition of organizational identity is largely agreed upon, but the interpretation of key dimensions is divergent throughout various studies. The authors propose to bridge these differing approaches by examining the connection between what organizational members do and how they perceive their organizational identity.

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  • Whetten, D. A. “Albert and Whetten Revisited-Strengthening the Concept of Organizational Identity.” Journal of Management Inquiry 15.3 (2006): 219–234.

    DOI: 10.1177/1056492606291200Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Distinguishes organizational identity from related concepts of organizational culture and image, and treats organizational identity from a “social actor” conceptualization based on identity claims and identity-referencing discourse, building on Albert and Whetten 1985. Recommends that organizational identity studies seek to answer the question “who are we as an organization?”.

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  • Whetten, D. A., and P. Godfrey, eds. Identity in Organizations: Building Theory through Conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1998.

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    Book investigating organizational identity and identification through conversations among identity scholars. Three views of identity provide theoretical insights, and a conclusion discusses identity as a key construct in organizational study.

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  • Whetten, D. A., and A. Mackey. “A Social Actor Conception of Organizational Identity and Its Implications for the Study of Organizational Reputation.” Business and Society 41.4 (2002): 393–414.

    DOI: 10.1177/0007650302238775Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Aims to clarify the domains of organizational identity, image, and reputation, by employing the concept of the social actor. Proposes solutions for putative flaws in organizational reputation literature and looks at the implications of identity and identification on organizational reputation.

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Narrative Identity

Narrative identity is a way in which individuals form an identity based on life and personal experiences, especially via discourse and narration. The narrative approach to identity is extended from the individual to the organizational level and assumes that organization members integrate their organizational experiences into an organizational identity story, which provides members with a collective sense of organizational “self” (see, for example, Czarniawska 2004). This narrative synthesizes the past, present, and sometimes the projected future and constitutes a coherent story with contexts, scenes, events, themes, and outcomes, often including a story of origin, current activities, values, etc. The works in this section expand on this approach to understanding personal and organizational identity.

  • Brown, A. “A Narrative Approach to Collective Identities.” Journal of Management Studies 43.4 (2006): 731–753.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2006.00609.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Utilizes a contrasting narrative perspective focused on complex, heterogeneous collective identities rather than emphasizing homogeneous collective identity, arguing that the homogeneous approach fails to account for the interplay between different communities within organizations. The outlined theoretical framework focuses specifically on the reflexivity, voice, plurivocity, temporality, and fictionality of collective identities to form a conceptual model for understanding and researching collective identities.

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  • Brown, A., and M. Humphreys. “Nostalgia and the Narrativization of Identity: A Turkish Case Study.” British Journal of Management 13 (2002): 141–159.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.00228Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Interpretive case study of the collective identity-narrative of a Turkish university faculty. The paper explores the use of nostalgia as a key to the dynamics of individual and organizational identity construction.

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  • Chreim, S. “The Continuity-Change Duality in Narrative Texts of Organizational Identity.” Journal of Management Studies 42.3 (2005): 567–593.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2005.00509.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on continuity and change, or confluence, as it is managed in maintaining organizational identity. Explores organizational identity as a narrative construction, as well as the discursive strategies and rhetorical tactics, such as labels and selective reporting, used to achieve confluence in narrative identities.

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  • Czarniawska, B. Narrating the Organization: Dramas of Institutional Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

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    Book structured with ten chapters, the first three of which detail the author’s narrative approach, while the next four focus on a case study of Swedish public-sector organizations, followed by three chapters on the author’s conclusions about narrative representation as well as new institutionalism.

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  • Czarniawska, B. “Narratives of Individual and Organizational Identities.” In Organizational Identity. Edited by M. J. Hatch and M. Schultz, 407–436. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Studies the narrative viewpoint of organizational identity. Data from a longitudinal study is invoked to support the perspective proposed.

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  • Humphreys, M., and A. D. Brown. “Narratives of Organizational Identity and Identification: A Case Study of Hegemony and Resistance.” Organization Studies 23 (2002): 421–447.

    DOI: 10.1177/0170840602233005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides a threefold contribution: First, looks at how identity narratives evolve over time and how members define their relationship with an organization based on disparate identification narratives. Second, contributes to the theories on the dynamics of individual-collective processes of identification and identity construction. Third, argues that efforts by management to control organizational identity formation and participant identification are acts of control used for legitimization.

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  • Ibarra, H., and R. Barbulescu. “Identity as Narrative: Prevalence, Effectiveness, and Consequences of Narrative Identity Work in Macro Work Role Transitions.” Academy of Management Review 35.1 (2010): 5–30.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2010.45577925Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes a process model of engagement in narrative identity work where people participate in role-related interactions using narrative repertoires, with the goal of using feedback to facilitate revision of self-narratives and repertoires, resulting in new role identity.

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  • Karreman, D., and M. Alvesson. “Making Newsmakers: Conversational Identity at Work.” Organization Studies 22.1 (2001): 59–89.

    DOI: 10.1177/017084060102200103Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The study demonstrates the success of shared meanings and joint identification, illustrates how micro events affect organizational visibility, and develops ideas on specific identity constructions. Gives particular emphasis to self-regulation of identity as a source of suppression of nondominant processes of identity construction.

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Multiple Identities

The study of multiple identities deals with the idea that complex organizations can harbor many identities (and dimensions of identity) simultaneously. (See Pratt and Foreman 2000, for example.) The basic premise of all these works is that neither individuals nor organizations have a single identity but, rather, multiple identities that manifest in different contexts or with different audiences. The evident case is that organizations, especially, can and do maintain multiple functional identities in their normal functioning (without becoming “schizophrenic”).

  • Foreman, P., and D. A. Whetten. “Members’ Identification with Multiple-Identity Organizations.” Organization Science 13 (2002): 618–635.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.13.6.618.493Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Aims to operationalize and test organizational identity theories in terms of identity comparison and multiple and competing identities. Supports a multilevel construct based on the effects of organizational identity congruence on member commitment and identity congruence on legitimacy.

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  • Gioia, D. A. “A Renaissance Self: Prompting Personal and Professional Revitalization.” In Renewing Research Practice: Scholars’ Journeys. Edited by P. J. Frost and R. E. Stablein, 97–114. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

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    By way of referencing past experiences and changes in personal identity over time, makes an argument for considering multiple simultaneous identities and emphasizes that a professional or personal renaissance can be accomplished.

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  • King, B. G., E. S. Clemens, and M. Fry. “Identity Realization and Organizational Forms: Differentiation and Consolidation of Identities among Arizona’s Charter Schools.” Organization Science 22.3 (2011): 554–572.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0548Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Utilizes the early Arizona charter school industry and its organizational form to explore the relationship between differentiation and consolidation of identity element clusters. Presents new industries as a source of multiple identity elements.

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  • Pratt, M. G., and P. O. Foreman. “Classifying Managerial Responses to Multiple Organizational Identities.” Academy of Management Review 25.1 (2000): 18–42.

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    Examines multiple organizational identities and the way organizations manage them, by using plurality and synergy to change the number of or relationships among the identities. Four managerial responses are identified: compartmentalization, deletion, integration, and aggregation.

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Social Identity Theory and Organizational Identity

Social identity is another concept borrowed from social psychology and extended to the macro level of organizations. Having a social identity is predicated on the notion that an individual’s sense of self is in some significant measure derived from membership in a desired social referent group (see Tajfel and Turner 1986). Similarly, an organizational identity is also derived from membership in an industry or other strategic referent group and, therefore, helps in understanding not only intra- but also inter-organizational perceptions and actions. The study of the relationship between social identity theory and organizational identity is concerned with the influence of social identity structures and processes on the character of organizational identity.

  • Ashforth, B. E., and F. Mael. “Social Identity Theory and the Organization.” Academy of Management Review 14.1 (1989): 20–39.

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    Defines social identification, its sources, and how it is used in an organizational setting, particularly in connection with identity. Demonstrates that social identification processes lead to actions within organizations that support the identities of individuals and institutions. The identification notion is applied to organizational socialization, role conflict, and intergroup relations.

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  • Ashforth, B. E., and F. A. Mael. “Organizational Identity and Strategy as a Context for the Individual.” In Advances in Strategic Management. Vol. 13. Edited by J. A. C. Baum and J. E. Dutton, 19–64. Greenwich, CT: JAI, 1996.

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    Explores organizational identity and strategy as constituting key contexts for people embedded within an organization. The work considers organizational identity and an organization’s strategy as strong elements affecting identification.

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  • Brewer, M. B. “The Social Self: On Being the Same and Different at the Same Time.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 17.5 (1991): 475–482.

    DOI: 10.1177/0146167291175001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that social identification is an integral part of the definition of self. The central notion is one of trying to achieve optimal distinctiveness, wherein individuals are seen as striving to be similar to some desired referent group and simultaneously distinct from it.

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  • Kreiner, G. E., B. E. Ashforth, and D. M. Sluss. “Identity Dynamics in Occupational Dirty Work: Integrating Social Identity and System Justification Perspectives.” Organization Science 17 (2006): 619–636.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1060.0208Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Further expands upon the “dirty work” conceptualization of occupations in Ashforth and Kreiner 1999 (cited under Identity Construction). The article utilizes social identity theory and system justification to study individual and group perceptions of social structures as well as stigmatized identities.

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  • Pratt, M. G., and A. Rafaeli. “Organizational Dress as a Symbol of Multilayered Social Identities.” Academy of Management Journal 40.4 (1997): 862–898.

    DOI: 10.2307/256951Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores through qualitative data the use of organizational dress as a representation of social identity, by examining the rehabilitation unit in a large hospital with its inherent hybrid identities. Organizational dress is considered a symbol of complex social identities, and the consequences for various related organizational theories are discussed, including organizational identity, organizational symbolism, organizational dress, and ambivalence.

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  • Tajfel, H., and J. C. Turner. “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior.” In Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Vol. 2. Edited by S. Worchel and W. G. Austin, 7–24. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986.

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    Argues that individuals derive their sense of self-worth from being a member of a group, and that they are therefore motivated to develop positive associations between their group and others.

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  • Whetten, D. A. “A Critique of Organizational Identity Scholarship: Challenging the Uncritical Use of Social Identity Theory when Social Identities Are Also Social Actors.” In Identity and the Modern Organization. Edited by C. A. Bartel, S. Blader, and A. Wrzesniewski, 253–272. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.

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    Critiques the organizational identity literature as relying too strongly on social identity theory and proposes a social actor view to make connections between organizational identity and individual identity.

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Identity Threat and Conflict

These works are all interesting because they study identity struggles/tensions/conflicts within, between, and among organizations and their members, and consider the many implications of dealing with identity conflicts resulting from organizational threats, problems, opportunities, changes, etc. Perhaps the most fundamental issue is whether and how organizational identity might change as a consequence of the tensions and conflicts (see, for example, Alvesson and Sveningsson 2003).

  • Alvesson, M., and S. Sveningsson. “Managing Managerial Identities: Organizational Fragmentation, Discourse and Identity Struggle.” Human Relations 56.10 (2003): 1163–1193.

    DOI: 10.1177/00187267035610001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Multilevel case study of managerial identity work, including organizational discourse, role expectations, narrative self-identity, and identity work. Discusses both the organizational fragmentation and integration between organizational discourses and identity.

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  • Creed, W. E., R. D. DeJordy, and J. Lok. “Being the Change: Resolving Institutional Contradiction through Identity Work.” Academy of Management Journal 53.6 (2010): 1336–1364.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2010.57318357Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the case of GLBT ministers and their conflicting role in the church. Offers a theoretical model that explores the process by which actors within institutions can act as facilitators for substantial institutional change. Focuses on the importance of embodied identity work as a response to institutional contradiction and marginalization.

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  • Elsbach, K. D. “Relating Physical Environment to Self-Categorizations: Identity Threat and Affirmation in a Non-Territorial Office Space.” Administrative Science Quarterly 48.4 (2003): 622–654.

    DOI: 10.2307/3556639Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Employs a qualitative approach to explore the reasoning behind employee-perceived threats in a new office space. Findings present three characteristics that elaborate the understanding of responses to identity threats: absolute structure, high subjective and personal relevance, as well as high reliance on physical markers.

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  • Elsbach, K. D., and R. M. Kramer. “Members’ Responses to Organizational Identity Threats: Encountering and Countering the Business Week Rankings.” Administrative Science Quarterly 41.3 (1996): 442–476.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393938Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes member responses from eight “top-20” business schools in the 1992 Business Week survey rankings of US business schools. The findings show that perceived threats to member views of school identity lead to categorizations that emphasize positive identity dimensions and interorganizational comparisons not used by the rankings (as determined by the level of members’ school identity dissonance).

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  • Fiol, C. M., M. Pratt, and E. O’Connor. “Managing Intractable Identity Conflicts.” Academy of Management Review 34.1 (2009): 32–55.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2009.35713276Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Addresses the problem of identity as a cause of intergroup conflict within organizations with the “intractable identity conflict resolution model,” developed from considering conflict management, social identity, and organizational identification. The model depicts the process by which identity shifts to bring forth intergroup harmony.

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  • Glynn, M. A. “When Cymbals Become Symbols: Conflict over Organizational Identity within a Symphony Orchestra.” Organization Science 11.3 (2000): 285–298.

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    A qualitative field study exploring the construction of a cultural institution’s identity and its relation to the construction of strategic abilities. The study investigates the 1996 musicians’ strike at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and proposes a model that places the construction of core capabilities at the confluence of identification and interpretive processes within organizations.

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  • Golden-Biddle, K., and H. Rao. “Breaches in the Boardroom: Organizational Identity and Conflicts of Commitment in a Nonprofit Organization.” Organization Science 8 (1997): 593–611.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.8.6.593Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides a qualitative, interpretive perspective on organizational governance by illustrating how organizational identity affects the construction and implementation of the director’s role. Introduces the idea of conflicts of commitment, arguing that directors must uphold certain aspects of their organizational identity while simultaneously undermining others.

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  • Ravasi, D., and M. Schultz. “Responding to Organizational Identity Threats: Exploring the Role of Organizational Culture.” Academy of Management Journal 49 (2006): 433–458.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2006.21794663Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Longitudinal study of environmental changes and resulting organizational responses that lead members to question aspects of their organizational identity. The findings demonstrate the role of organizational culture as a supporting element to both “sensemaking” and “sensegiving.” The authors put forth a theoretical framework to illustrate how construed images and organizational culture influence institutional claims and how the identity of an organization is understood.

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  • Reger, R. K., L. T. Gustafson, S. M. Demarie, and J. V. Mullane. “Reframing the Organization: Why Implementing Total Quality Is Easier Said than Done.” Academy of Management Review 19.3 (1994): 565–584.

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    Proposes a dynamic model for organizations to implement organizational change. Argues that implementation is best achieved by accounting for organizational identity and accomplished through a series of changes, each of which is simultaneously large enough to prevail over cognitive inertia, but not so large that each change is seen as negative or impossible to realize.

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  • Tripsas, M. “Technology, Identity, and Inertia through the Lens of “the Digital Photography Company.” Organization Science 20 (2009): 440–461.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1080.0419Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Uses an extended field study over the lifespan of a company to explore the difficulties that result from new, identity-challenging technologies in an organization. Proposes that a company’s ability to capitalize on new technology hinges on the ability to understand and identify identity-challenging technologies.

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Identity and Competitiveness

These studies consider the role of organizational identity as a source of competitive advantage for organizations. They consider identity as a resource within competitive communities/environments (e.g., Porac, et al. 1989). Although few in number, these works highlight the notion that identity can be associated with organizational performance.

  • Fiol, C. M. “Managing Culture as a Competitive Resource: An Identity-Based View of Sustainable Competitive Advantage.” Journal of Management 17.1 (1991): 191–211.

    DOI: 10.1177/014920639101700112Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reframes culture concepts to emphasize the role of contextual identities and their role in facilitating competitive advantage. To this end the authors argue that the cognitive process in organizations is produced by a combination of both behavior and underlying beliefs. To achieve competitive advantage organizations must reconcile the identities by which people frame what they do individually with a larger set of organizational norms.

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  • Fiol, C. M. “Revisiting an Identity-Based View of Sustainable Competitive Advantage.” Journal of Management 27 (2001): 691–699.

    DOI: 10.1177/014920630102700606Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reconsiders the author’s earlier identity-based view of sustainable competitive advantage utilizing new information collected on organizational identities and identification. Questions the sustainable advantage created by any specific core competency within an organization and argues that organizational identity and identification affect both the creation and destruction of a temporary competitive advantage.

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  • Porac, J. F., H. Thomas, and Charles Baden-Fuller. “Competitive Groups as Cognitive Communities: The Case of Scottish Knitwear Manufacturers.” Journal of Management Studies 26 (1989): 397–416.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.1989.tb00736.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores a framework for competitive strategy in terms of competing organizations in the Scottish knitwear industry. Findings elaborate how the structure of industry both influences and is influenced by managerial perceptions of the organizational environment.

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  • Voss, Z. G., D. M. Cable, and G. B. Voss. “Organizational Identity and Firm Performance: What Happens when Leaders Disagree about ‘Who We Are?’” Organization Science 17 (2006): 741–755.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1060.0218Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study focuses on how the success of a large group of nonprofit, professional theaters was affected when the leaders held differing views about their organizational identity. The authors found that this identity disagreement was linked to lower net income and that more extreme identity disagreement resulted in lower organizational performance. They argue that leaders should strive to project a single identity to promote organizational success.

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Identity Construction

These works all consider various aspects of the processes that people and organizations use to construct an ongoing identity at both individual and collective levels (as distinct from the formation of an initial organizational identity, which is covered in the section Identity Formation). These works consider the basic factors and processes that contribute to the construction and maintenance of an ongoing identity—e.g., regulatory processes (Alvesson and Wilmott 2002), argumentation (Coupland and Brown 2004), claiming and granting (DeRue and Ashford 2010), gender identity (Linstead and Thomas 2002), institutional logics (Lok 2010), stakeholders (Scott and Lane 2000), and learning (Pratt, et al. 2006), among others.

  • Alvesson, M., and H. Wilmott. “Identity Regulation as Organizational Control: Producing the Appropriate Individual.” Journal of Management Studies 39 (2002): 619–644.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-6486.00305Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the regulation of identity as a way to exert organizational control over employees from the managerial level by influencing their coherence, distinctiveness, and commitment. The work demonstrates the nature of managerial intervention and its influence on employee self construction, creating what the authors term “micro-emancipation” between the employees’ sense of identity and organizational control.

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  • Ashforth, B., and G. E. Kreiner. “How Can You Do It? Dirty Work and the Challenge of Constructing Positive Identity.” Academy of Management Review 24 (1999): 413–434.

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    Presents research suggesting that the stigma of “dirty work” promotes strong occupational or work group culture rather than previously held notions of “dirty work” as a threat to esteem-enhancing social identity. Findings present two defense mechanisms, ideological reframing and social comparison, resulting in the change of the meaning of “dirt,” thus allowing workers to moderate negative perceptions.

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  • Coupland, C., and A. D. Brown. “Constructing Organizational Identities on the Web: A Case Study of Royal Dutch/Shell.” Journal of Management Studies 41 (2004): 1325–1347.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00477.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates the process of the construction of identity from two series of emails posted on Royal Dutch/Shell’s website. Organizational identity is presented as an ongoing argument between insiders and outsiders of an organization. Explores the persuasive techniques used to enact identity-as-argument.

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  • DeRue, D. and S. Ashford. “Who Will Lead and Who Will Follow? A Social Process of Leadership Identity Construction in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 35.4 (2010): 627–647.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2010.53503267Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes that leadership identity is constructed via a claiming-granting process of leader and follower roles. The work explores the process by which these identities are internalized and acknowledged through “reciprocal role adoption and collectively endorsed within the organizational context.”

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  • Foreman, P. O., and M. M. Parent. “The Process of Organizational Identity Construction in Iterative Organizations.” Corporate Reputation Review 11.3 (2008): 222–244.

    DOI: 10.1057/crr.2008.23Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines organizational identity construction as a continual, repetitive process in what the authors term “iterative organizations,” meaning they have structure and activities that are episodic in nature. Looks at the role of discontinuity in shaping the organization’s identity and develops a framework to explain this process by focusing on the effects of institutional setting.

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  • Kjaegaard, A., M. Morsing, and D. Ravasi. “Mediating Identity: A Study of Media Influence on Organizational Identity Construction in a Celebrity Firm.” Journal of Management Studies 48.3 (2011): 514–543.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2010.00954.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Studies the effects of positive media exposure on an organization’s identity using a longitudinal field study. Intensity of coverage can lead to an organization gaining “celebrity” status, influencing sensemaking and self-enhancement effects, which can have both positive and negative outcomes. These effects can provide a new understanding of what the organization is, but simultaneously risk stagnation when celebrity captivates members, preventing further identity development.

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  • Linstead, A., and R. Thomas. “What Do You Want from Me? A Poststructuralist Feminist Reading of Middle Managers’ Identities.” Culture and Organization 8 (2002): 1–20.

    DOI: 10.1080/14759550212106Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the process of identity construction on gendered discourses of four female and male middle managers from one organization. Identities of the managers are offered as gendered masks that determine the generic roles and identities of the middle managers.

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  • Lok, J. “Institutional Logics as Identity Projects.” Academy of Management Journal 53.6 (2010): 1305–1335.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2010.57317866Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Considers the role identity construction plays in the processes of institutionalization by analyzing identity work by non-entrepreneurial actors in regard to new institutional logics, specifically how identity and practices are adapted in response to change agents. The analysis identifies three ways that actors concurrently accept and resist practices, as well as the implications of new institutional ideas.

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  • Pratt, M. G. “Rethinking Identity Construction Processes in Organizations: Three Questions to Consider.” In Constructing Identity in and around Organizations. Edited by M. Schultz, S. Maguire, A. Langley, and H. Tsoukas, 21–49. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640997.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Addresses how identity is either built or discovered in organizations. Identity is considered from three fundamental bases of identification: relational, behavioral, and symbolic, which leads to identity claiming and granting by both organizations and constituents.

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  • Pratt, M. G., K. W. Rockmann, and J. B. Kaufmann. “Constructing Professional Identity: The Role of Work and Identity Learning Cycles in the Customization of Identity among Medical Residents.” Academy of Management Journal 49 (2006): 235–262.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2006.20786060Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a theory of professional identity construction using six years of data from a qualitative study of medical residents. Findings detail and discuss triggers of identity construction based on work-identity integrity violations, which are then resolved by processes of identity customization.

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  • Scott, S. G., and V. R. Lane. “A Stakeholder Approach to Organizational Identity.” Academy of Management Review 25.1 (2000): 43–62.

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    Develops an organizational identity construction model, reframing the role organizational identity plays within the context of manager-stakeholder relationships. Highlights organizational identity as negotiated cognitive images and organizational identity within organizational membership and meaning.

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  • Wertsch, J. V. “Narrative Tools and the Construction of Identity.” In Constructing Identity in and around Organizations. Edited by M. Schultz, S. Maguire, A. Langley, and H. Tsoukas, 128–146. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640997.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores ways in which narrative tools are used to capture and reproduce communities. To demonstrate this process, a study of Estonian and Russian communities in terms of a narrative template is presented.

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Identity Formation

Organizational identity formation is the study of the factors and processes involved in the initial (as contrasted with ongoing) construction of an organization’s identity in emerging and established environments. Relatively few studies have addressed the concepts, structures, and processes that pertain specifically to initial identity formation. These studies consider social construction, social actor, as well as powerful institutional dynamics that affect the formation of a new organizational identity (or the resurrection of an identity in a revised form, as presented in Howard-Grenville, et al. 2013).

  • Clegg, S. R., C. Rhodes, and M. Kornberger. “Desperately Seeking Legitimacy: Organizational Identity and Emerging Industries.” Organization Studies 28.4 (2007): 495–513.

    DOI: 10.1177/0170840606067995Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the formation of organizational identity in emerging industries, understood in terms of temporal differences and spatial differences. The authors argue that this relationship allows organizations to build a legitimate sense of identity.

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  • Corley, K. G., and D. A. Gioia. “Identity Ambiguity and Change in the Wake of a Corporate Spin-Off.” Administrative Science Quarterly 49.2 (2004): 173–208.

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    Presents a case study of organizational identity change/formation during and after a corporate spin-off by a Fortune 100 company. Examines how changes occurred to both the labels and meanings associated with the organization’s identity as well as the response to change by the organization itself. Provides insight into the processes associated with profound organizational change and the formation of a new identity—especially the role of identity ambiguity.

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  • Czarniawska, B., and R. Wolff. “Constructing New Identities in Established Organization Fields: Young Universities in Old Europe.” International Studies of Management and Organization 29.3 (1998): 32–56.

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    Explores two cases of emerging universities in disparate locations in Europe and the success of one and the failure of the other in becoming established universities. Focuses on the limited purview of new organizations attempting to construct an identity in an established field. The analysis revolves around the concepts of organization field, action nets, and organizational identity.

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  • Gioia, D. A., S. D. Patvardhan, A. L. Hamilton, and K. G. Corley. “Organizational Identity Formation and Change.” Academy of Management Annals 7.1 (2013): 123–193.

    DOI: 10.1080/19416520.2013.762225Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reviews the literature to date on the formation of a nascent organizational identity, as well as the more extensive literature on organizational identity change. The work further assesses the four leading views on organizational identity and suggests directions for future research.

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  • Gioia, D. A., K. N. Price, A. L. Hamilton, and J. B. Thomas. “Forging an Identity: An Insider-Outsider Study of Processes Involved in the Formation of Organizational Identity.” Administrative Science Quarterly 55.1 (2010): 1–46.

    DOI: 10.2189/asqu.2010.55.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores eight processes identified by the authors as instrumental in the formation of organizational identity, four of which occur in stages and four of which are recurrent, thus informing the stage processes. The study uses an insider-outsider, interpretive research approach, showing the effects of internal and external and micro and macro influences as well as social construction and social actor views on the development of an organizational identity.

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  • Harquail, C. V., and A. Wilcox King. “Construing Organizational Identity: The Role of Embodied Cognition.” Organization Studies 31 (2010): 1619–1648.

    DOI: 10.1177/0170840610376143Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores a theory of organizational identity rooted in embodied cognition. Proposes four embodied capacities used by organizational members to define what is central, distinctive, and enduring about their organization. The authors argue that an individual’s construal of organizational identity must also be supported by his or her embodied experiences.

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  • Howard-Grenville, J., M. L. Metzger, and A. D. Meyer. “Rekindling the Flame: Processes of Identity Resurrection.” Academy of Management Journal 56.1 (2013): 113–136.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2010.0778Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates the process of collective identity resurrection, following a long period of decline, as instigated by leaders of the community through the use of tangible resources such as money and human talent. Suggests a recursive model of identity that draws attention to the effects of emotion and experience in the identity resurrection process.

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  • Kroezen, J. J., and P. P. M. A. R. Heugens. “Organizational Identity Formation: Processes of Identity Imprinting and Enactment in the Dutch Microbrewing Landscape.” Constructing Identity in and around Organizations (2012): 89–128.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640997.003.0005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides a model of organizational identity formation using a qualitative study of newly opened microbreweries in the Netherlands. Accounts for several sources of organizational identity, including identities of authoritative organizational insiders, preferences and judgments of organizational audiences, and identities of organizational peers, all of which influence the imprinting of identity attributes and the subsequent enactment of select attributes.

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  • Wry, T., M. Lounsbury, and M. A. Glynn. “Legitimating Nascent Collective Identities: Coordinating Cultural Entrepreneurship.” Organization Science 22.2 (2011): 449–463.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0613Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on the process of legitimizing emerging collective identities. Introduces a framework that accounts for the conditions in which a collective identity in a burgeoning entrepreneurial group is formed and is more likely to reach legitimization by way of defining collective identity stories and growth stories.

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  • Ybema, S., T. Keenoy, C. Oswick, A. Beverungen, N. Ellis, and I. Sabelis. “Articulating Identities.” Human Relations 62 (2009): 299–322.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726708101904Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes a set of discursive resources and suggests that a key element within the processes of identity formation is “self-other” talk. Also discussed is the awareness of the reflexivity displayed by social actors in constructing identity.

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Identity Change

The study of identity change concerns the content and process of changes to existing identity, usually as a consequence of organizational or environmental shifts, including mergers, structural changes, identity movements, spin-offs, etc. Although organizational identity was initially characterized as “enduring” and thus changing only over very long periods of time (see Gioia, et al. 2000), most of these studies and theoretical works demonstrate that organizational identity can actually change in sometimes surprisingly short time periods—even if those changes are sometimes subtle and even operate out of the awareness of organizational members themselves. The most notable feature of these works is the demonstration that, as powerful as organizational identity might be, it is nonetheless malleable over shorter time horizons than traditionally presumed.

  • Bartunek, J. M. “Changing Interpretive Schemes and Organizational Restructuring: The Example of a Religious Order.” Administrative Science Quarterly 29 (1984): 355–372.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393029Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a case study of a religious order and its significant changes in structure and interpretive schemes. An identity study in disguise. Reciprocal relationships between cognitive interpretive schemes and structural changes receive particular emphasis, which is influenced by both leadership and environmental forces.

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  • Clark, S. M., D. A. Gioia, D. J. Ketchen, and J. B. Thomas. “Transitional Identity as a Facilitator of Organizational Identity Change during a Merger.” Administrative Science Quarterly 55.3 (2010): 397–438.

    DOI: 10.2189/asqu.2010.55.3.397Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates the attempt to achieve a new organizational identity when two former rival health-care companies merge. The study of the merger focuses on the significant role of a “transitional identity” in allowing for the suspension of preexisting, separate organizational identities in favor of a single shared identity.

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  • Corley, K. G. “Defined by Our Strategy or Our Culture? Hierarchical Differences in Perceptions of Organizational Identity and Change.” Human Relations 57 (2004): 1145–1178.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726704047141Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores identity differentiation based on hierarchy in the study of an organizational spin-off. Examines the reasoning behind hierarchical differentiation of multiple organizational identities and discusses the implications for organizational identity in the context of organizational change.

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  • Fiol, C. M. “Capitalizing on Paradox: The Role of Language in Transforming Organizational Identities.” Organization Science 13.6 (2002): 653–666.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.13.6.653.502Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Introduces an identity transformation model based on interactions between individual and organizational levels of identity during critical organizational change. The model suggests linguistic signs that characterize the stages of the identity change process and rhetorical techniques that can be used as a guide for organizational leaders.

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  • Gagliardi, P. “The Creation and Change of Organizational Cultures: A Conceptual Framework.” Organization Studies 7 (1986): 117–134.

    DOI: 10.1177/017084068600700203Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the creation and change of organizational cultures through the maintenance of cultural identity. Success in the face of stabilized values results in the continuity of culture. Any deviations for which the culture is unsuited can inhibit change, however. Makes the argument that organizations must change to maintain the continuity of their identities.

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  • Gioia, D. A., and K. Chittipeddi. “Sensemaking and Sensegiving in Strategic Change Initiation.” Strategic Management Journal 12.6 (1991): 433–448.

    DOI: 10.1002/smj.4250120604Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Develops a framework for the initial stages of strategic change by tracking four phases in the first year of change in a large, public university. The ethnographic study suggests the process for strategic change initiation is understood through the relationship between the two central concepts of “sensemaking” and “sensegiving.” An identity study in disguise.

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  • Gioia, D. A., M. Schultz, and K. G. Corley. “Organizational Identity, Image, and Adaptive Instability.” Academy of Management Review 25.1 (2000): 63–81.

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    Argues that organizational identity, because of its reciprocal relationship with image, is a fluid and unstable concept as opposed to popular treatment of identity as an “enduring” attribute of an organization. It is this instability of identity that allows for organizational change, manifesting as adaptive rather than destabilizing within the organization.

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  • Gioia, D. A., and J. B. Thomas. “Identity, Image, and Issue Interpretation: Sensemaking during Strategic Change in Academia.” Administrative Science Quarterly 41.3 (1996): 370–403.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393936Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Comprehensive qualitative/quantitative study of top management teams in a university and their process of reasoning on important issues affecting strategic change in academia. Findings demonstrate that top management’s perceptions of the identity and image (especially the desired future image) of the organization play a key role in the sensemaking process.

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  • Nag, R., K. G. Corley, and D. A. Gioia. “The Intersection of Organizational Identity, Knowledge, and Practice: Attempting Strategic Change via Knowledge Grafting.” Academy of Management Journal 50.4 (2007): 821–847.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2007.26279173Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Qualitative study investigating the attempted, ultimately unsuccessful, transformation of a high-tech R&D organization into a market-oriented organization by “grafting” on a nontechnical business development unit. Argues that the failure was because of the confluence of organizational identity, knowledge, and practice, hindering the development of new knowledge and ultimately desired change. Highlights the relationship between organizational identity and knowledge.

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  • Rao, H., P. Monin, and R. Durand. “Institutional Change in Toque Ville: Nouvelle Cuisine as an Identity Movement in French Gastronomy.” American Journal of Sociology 108 (2003): 795–843.

    DOI: 10.1086/367917Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Case study on the nouvelle cuisine movement in France that provides an explanation for how new role identities and logics supplant existing identities and logics. Proposes multiple influences, or identity-discrepant cues, for this transition, including sociopolitical legitimacy of activists, theorization of new roles, and peer defection and gain.

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  • Ybema, S. “Talk of Change: Temporal Contrasts and Collective Identities.” Organization Studies 31.4 (2010): 481–503.

    DOI: 10.1177/0170840610372205Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ethnographic study of a Dutch national newspaper, constructing the newspaper’s identity in temporal discontinuity talk by contrasting “old” and “new.” Explores the temporal dimension of collective identity talk and its incorporation of discontinuity and change.

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Identity Dynamics

The works that treat identity dynamics are, in some reasonable sense, companions to the works addressed to identity change. (See the section on Identity Change.) The study of identity dynamics specifically concerns the many variables, factors, and processes that make identity a dynamic, rather than static concept. These features include cross-level dynamics, learning processes, the transformational notion that identity might be construed as a process rather than a “thing,” the interplay of identity, image, and culture, etc. These works entertain the many variations, perspectives, and interactional influences on organizational identity as a dynamic concept.

  • Ashforth, B. E., K. M. Rogers, and K. G. Corley. “Identity in Organizations: Exploring Cross-Level Dynamics.” Organization Science 22.5 (2011): 1144–1156.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0591Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents research that studies organization-based identity by taking a cross-level approach, concentrating on “nested” identities. Explores the processes through which organization-based identities become linked to one another and the influence that identities at a given level have on other levels of identity by both enabling and constraining them. This work also looks at how the isomorphic nature of identities is impeded across levels, leading to more differentiated identities.

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  • Brown, A. D., and K. Starkey. “Organizational Identity and Organizational Learning: A Psychodynamic Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 25.1 (2000): 102–120.

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    Discusses the relationship between organizational identity and organizational learning using a psychodynamic perspective. Suggests that ego defenses, which help to maintain continuity of identity, can become problematic, working against organizational change. These bad defenses can be mitigated through critical self-reflexivity and identity-focused dialogue.

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  • Cornelissen, J. P. “Metaphor and the Dynamics of Knowledge in Organization Theory: A Case Study of the Organizational Identity Metaphor.” Journal of Management Studies 43.4 (2006): 683–709.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2006.00607.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes an image-schematic model to investigate metaphors in organizational theory through contextual variation in the interpretation of metaphors. Argues that image schemes vary among individuals, leading to varied interpretation and completion of these metaphors among both individuals and research communities.

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  • Gioia, D. A., and S. D. Patvardhan. “Identity as Process and Flow.” In Constructing Identity in and around Organizations. Edited by M. Schultz, S. Maguire, A. Langley, and H. Tsoukas, 50–62. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640997.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Conceptualizes organizational identity in terms of a continual process and flow in contrast to the traditional view of identity as a “thing” or entity. Considers several debates about identity in working to better understand identity dynamics.

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  • Haslam, S. A., T. Postmes, and N. Ellemers. “More than a Metaphor: Organizational Identity Makes Organizational Life Possible.” British Journal of Management 14 (2003): 357–369.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2003.00384.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposes that previous studies of organizational identity as a metaphor for organizational life are limiting because they fail to delve into the “social psychological basis and consequences of the discontinuity between personal and organizational identity.” The authors suggest that organizational identity is powerful beyond simply metaphorical terms because it can be both an externally shared and negotiated product as well as an internalized aspect of the collective self.

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  • Hatch, M. J., and M. Schultz. “The Dynamics of Organizational Identity.” Human Relations 55 (2002): 989–1017.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726702055008181Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores Mead’s “I” and “me” relationship and analyzes the identity construction process at the organizational level. Proposes a new model of organizational identity dynamics on the relationship between organizational identity, culture, and image through the use of mirroring, impressing to link identity and image, and reflecting and expressing to link identity and culture.

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  • Kreiner, G., E. Hollensbe, and M. Sheep. “On the Edge of Identity: Boundary Dynamics at the Interface of Individual and Organizational Identities.” Human Relations 59.10 (2006): 1315–1341.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726706071525Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors look at identities at both the individual and organizational levels, examining the boundary dynamics that are negotiated where individual and organizational identities interact. Considers the boundary dynamics of identity intrusion, distance, and balance both within and between individual and organizational identities. This boundary approach examines identities across levels and indicates boundary dynamics are a cause of identity change.

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  • Livengood, R. S., and R. K. Reger. “That’s Our Turf! Identity Domains and Competitive Dynamics.” Academy of Management Review 35 (2010): 48–66.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2010.45577794Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a conceptual exploration of the effects of organizational identity on the competitive dynamics of firms, investigating their actions and responses within the cognitive competitive space. Proposes that the psychological and motivational aspects of the identity of a firm may lead to managerial behavior that deviates from traditional economically based explanations.

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  • Markus, H., and P. Nurius. “Possible Selves.” American Psychologist 41 (1986): 954–969.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the concept of possible selves, which conceptually links cognition and motivation. Complements existing work on self-knowledge and delves into the influence of possible selves on future behavior as well as one’s current view of self. Possible selves is also presented as a potential solution to various persistent problems, including stability of the self and self-concept-related behavior. Relates to the multiple-identity view of organizational identity.

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  • Markus, H., and E. Wurf. “The Dynamic Self-Concept: A Social Psychological Perspective.” Annual Review of Psychology 38 (1987): 299–337.

    DOI: 10.1146/ Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses primarily on the guiding and controlling influences of the multifaceted idea of the self-concept, which is held to mediate intrapersonal as well as interpersonal processes. Argues that self-concept does not only portray current behavior, but also regulates and mediates that behavior, making self-concept an active and ever-changing entity. Relates to the dynamic view of organizational identity.

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Identity and Legitimacy

Working to achieve legitimacy is a fundamental pursuit of all organizations. Seeking legitimacy has to do with seeking a notable degree of congruence between larger industry or social values and the attributes and activities of the organization to conform to norms of acceptable behavior within the larger social system. (See, for example, Navis and Glynn 2010 and Navis and Glynn 2011.) An organization is deemed to be illegitimate if there is a significant disparity between the organizational values/actions and industry/societal values/actions. The works in this domain consider the role of organizational identity in the processes by which organizations endeavor to establish themselves as legitimate entities.

  • Glynn, M. A. “Beyond Constraint: How Institutions Enable Identities.” In The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Edited by R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin-Andersson, and R. Suddaby, 413–430. London: SAGE, 2008.

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    Views the processes behind institutions and institutionalization and how they enable identity construction through legitimate identity elements.

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  • Glynn, M. A., and R. Abzug. “Institutionalizing Identity: Symbolic Isomorphism and Organizational Names.” Academy of Management Review 45.1 (2002): 267–280.

    DOI: 10.2307/3069296Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Advances the concept of symbolic isomorphism by exploring its influence on the homogenization of organizations’ names and legitimacy. Using two different studies, the authors explore historical naming patterns and outcomes of name conformity.

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  • Glynn, M. A., and C. Marquis. “Legitimating Identities: How Institutional Logics Motivate Organizational Name Choices.” In Identity and the Modern Organization. Edited by C. A. Bartel, S. Blader, and A. Wrzesniewski, 17–33. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.

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    Examines the change of organizational names as identity labels and includes findings from two empirical studies on the influence of institutional logics. The chapter focuses on organizational name choices and the effects of institutional environments on these choices.

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  • Navis, C., and M. A. Glynn. “How New Market Categories Emerge: Temporal Dynamics of Legitimacy, Identity, and Entrepreneurship in Satellite Radio, 1990–2005.” Administrative Science Quarterly 55 (2010): 439–471.

    DOI: 10.2189/asqu.2010.55.3.439Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sets forth a theory about the emergence of market categories and their legitimization through internal and external factors in a study of the US satellite radio market. Findings show that with the legitimization of a new market category a shift from attention to the category as a whole to differentiation of firms within the category occurs.

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  • Navis, C., and M. A. Glynn. “Legitimate Distinctiveness and the Entrepreneurial Identity: Influence on Investor Judgments of New Venture Plausibility.” Academy of Management Review 36.3 (2011): 479–499.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2011.61031809Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Connects entrepreneurial identity with investor judgments as a criterion for decisions on new ventures. These judgments are favorable in instances of legitimate distinctiveness and are influenced by the market with identity narratives acting as mediators for investor sensemaking.

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  • Pedersen, J. S., and F. Dobbin. “In Search of Identity and Legitimation: Bridging Organizational Culture and Neoinstitutionalism.” American Behavioral Scientist 49 (2006): 897–907.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002764205284798Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores neoinstitutional and organizational culture theory and reflects on their commonalties in organization identity formation through seemingly contradictory observations. This work bridges the opposing ideas of individuation through uniqueness and legitimacy through commonality in four ways: imitation, hybridization, transmutation, and immunization.

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Organizational Image

Image is a concept closely related to identity and which is frequently invoked in discussing identity, so we include a brief selection of works relating identity and image. Organizational images are the perceptions that varied audiences might retain of an organization. These perceptions can take different forms, and in particular can differ dramatically from those projected or desired by the organization itself. (See, in particular, Price, et al. 2008.) Those differences often set the stage for identity change.

  • Alvesson, M. “Organization: From Substance to Image?” Organization Studies 11.3 (1990): 373–394.

    DOI: 10.1177/017084069001100303Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the ideational dimensions of organizations, focusing on corporate images and the internal effect they have on organizations, including the preconditions necessary for images to develop as objects of systematic control and action within organizations. Argues that pseudo-events, pseudo-action, and pseudo-structures are important aspects of modern management because of their ability to produce effects on people’s impression and definition of reality.

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  • Dutton, J. E., and J. M. Dukerich. “Keeping an Eye on the Mirror: Image and Identity in Organizational Adaption.” Academy of Management Journal 31 (1991): 517–554.

    DOI: 10.2307/256405Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Studies the issue of homelessness as handled by the Port Authority in New York and New Jersey, in terms of organizational identity and image. Shows the important role of both concepts in individuals’ actions and interpretation of the issue. Develops a framework to study the identity/image-based processes used by an organization in regards to impression management and organizational adaptation.

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  • Fombrun, C., and M. Shanley. “What’s in a Name? Reputation Building and Corporate Strategy.” Academy of Management Journal 33.2 (1990): 233–258.

    DOI: 10.2307/256324Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Uses an empirical study of large US firms to investigate reputation building and the corporate strategy of firms. Posits that publics construct reputations of firms based on relative positions within organizational fields, conformity to social norms, and strategic postures. Helps to explain external perceptions as a source of mobility barriers within industries.

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  • Gioia, D. A., A. L. Hamilton, and S. Patvardhan. “Image Is Everything: Reflections on the Dominance of Image in Modern Organizational Life.” Research in Organizational Behavior (2014).

    DOI: 10.1016/j.riob.2014.01.001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the topic of image from psychological, branding, political, and organizational perspectives and considers the significance of image in modern organizational life. Argues that image is a supra concept that subsumes even identity and uses identity as an exemplar to make the case that image dominates identity. Articulates and demonstrates two theses in organizational domains, that: (1) substance is often converted into image and (2) image can become substantive.

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  • Hatch, M. J., and M. Schultz. “Relations between Organizational Culture, Identity, and Image.” European Journal of Marketing 31 (1997): 356–365.

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    Sets forth an argument for how organizational culture, identity, and image are a result of direct actions and discourse by top management. The work also examines consequences of internal and external boundaries, building on corporate identity, branding, and image studies.

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  • Ibarra, H. “Provisional Selves: Experimenting with Image and Identity in Professional Adaptation.” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 (1999): 764–791.

    DOI: 10.2307/2667055Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explicates the process of adaptation to a new role in a professional setting by invoking the notion of a provisional self. In the transition from junior to more senior roles, three fundamental processes for adaptation are revealed from the qualitative data analyzed: observation of role models, experimentation with provisional selves, and evaluation through internal and external feedback.

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  • Price, K. N., D. A. Gioia, and K. G. Corley. “Reconciling Scattered Images: Managing Disparate Organizational Expressions and Impressions.” Journal of Management Inquiry 17 (2008): 173–185.

    DOI: 10.1177/1056492608314991Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on the spectrum of diverse images that are presented by the organization and formed by different stakeholders and intermediaries of an organization, resulting in a need for organizations to manage “scattered images.” Proposes a reconciliation of images, possible sources for image variation, and ways to mitigate the problem of multiple images.

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  • Thomas, W. I. The Unadjusted Girl. Boston: Little, Brown, 1923.

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    A book on situational definitions. The author demonstrates how society’s definitions of a situation can make an unadjusted girl a maladjusted one. Original source of the observation that if a person defines a situation as real, it is real in its consequences.

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Organizational Identification and Identity

Identification is a process whereby individuals adopt or associate themselves with features of an organization (especially its identity). Organizational identification helps members’ sensemaking processes and also helps to bond people to the organizations with which they identify (e.g., Pratt 2000). The process of identification captures similarities between individuals and organizations and is a subject area obviously related to organizational identity, but relatively few conceptual or empirical works have considered the relationship between the two. This section is a sampling of the pieces that have done so.

  • Albert, S., B. E. Ashforth, and J. E. Dutton. “Organizational Identity and Identification: Charting New Waters and Building New Bridges.” Academy of Management Review 25 (2000): 13–17.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2000.2791600Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The editors provide an introduction to an AMR Special Topic Forum, giving an overview of three articles on organization identity and three articles on organizational identification. Articulates several of the major issues involved in these concepts, making the case for why we need a deeper understanding of identity and identification. Brings together two major topics that had not previously seen extensive cross-referencing.

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  • Ashforth, B., S. Harrison, and K. Corley. “Identification in Organizations: An Examination of Four Fundamental Questions.” Journal of Management 34.3 (2008): 325–374.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206308316059Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Assesses existing works on organizational identification through the discussion of four fundamental questions: What is identification? Why does it occur? How does it occur? What are the relationships among the forms of identification?

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  • Cheney, G. “On the Various Changing Meanings of Organization Membership: A Field Study of Organizational Identification.” Communication Monographs 50 (1983): 342–362.

    DOI: 10.1080/03637758309390174Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the process of organizational identification in a corporate field setting. The study provides an early empirical introduction to the concept of organizational identification, focusing primarily on how an individual’s identification influences on-the-job decisions, and providing a link between organizational identification and decision-making.

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  • Dukerich, J. M., B. R. Golden, and S. M. Shortell. “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder: The Impact of Organizational Identification, Identity, and Image on the Cooperative Behaviors of Physicians.” Administrative Science Quarterly 47.3 (2002): 507–533.

    DOI: 10.2307/3094849Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sets forth a model of organizational identification to explain how perceptions of attractiveness in identity and image affect the cooperative behavior of professionals in organizations. The authors surveyed a large number of physicians affiliated with three different health-care systems and determined that attractiveness of perceived identity and construed external image leads to physicians positively identifying with the system and participating in cooperative behavior.

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  • Dutton, J. E., J. M. Dukerich, and C. V. Harquail. “Organizational Images and Member Identification.” Administrative Science Quarterly 39 (1994): 239–262.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393235Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on the image of an organization and how it shapes individuals’ identification with the organization. The model centers on two organizational images: one based on what is distinctive, central, and enduring and the other focusing on members’ beliefs about how outsiders view their organization. The model directs researchers to a variety of propositions relating to how organizational identity influences social interaction.

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  • Elsbach, K. D. “An Expanded Model of Organizational Identification.” Research in Organizational Behavior 21 (1999): 163–200.

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    Focusing on three cognitive processes, the author presents a theory of organizational identification based on the findings that social identity can develop from positive, negative, conflicted, or neutral relationships with organizations. Through organizational dis-identification, organizational schizo-identification, and organizational neutral-identification, the author illustrates the variable nature of the “human self-concept in organizational settings.”

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  • Elsbach, K. D., and C. B. Bhattacharya. “Defining Who You Are by What You’re Not: Organizational Disidentification and the National Rifle Association.” Organization Science 12.4 (2001): 393–413.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.12.4.393.10638Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Introduces a framework of organizational dis-identification through self-perceptions and identity overlap, pointing to cognitive separation between individual and organizational identity and “negative relational categorization.” Presents the results from a large-scale survey of public opinion about the National Rifle Association and proposes that an individual’s perception of dis-identification plays an important role in maintaining and improving his or her own social identity.

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  • Kreiner, G. E., E. C. Hollensbe, and M. L. Sheep. “Where Is the ‘Me’ among the ‘We’? Identity Work and the Search for Optimal Balance.” Academy of Management Journal 49 (2006): 1031–1057.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2006.22798186Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Combines two qualitative studies that examine how members of a demanding profession, namely Episcopal priests, use identity work to try to create an ideal balance between personal and social identities. The authors develop a theoretical model of identity work to fuse identity tensions and identity work tactics.

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  • Maguire, S., and C. Hardy. “Identity and Collaborative Strategy in the Canadian HIV/AIDS Treatment Domain.” Strategic Organization 3.1 (2005): 11–45.

    DOI: 10.1177/1476127005050112Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Case study that explores the links between identity and strategy. Findings indicate that using a collaborative strategy facilitates identification, counter-identification, and dis-identification. Examines the interplay between actors engaged in the strategic change process to illustrate the limits of identity work.

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  • Pratt, M. G. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent: Managing Identification among Amway Distributors.” Administrative Science Quarterly 45 (2000): 456–493.

    DOI: 10.2307/2667106Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An ethnographic study that examines processes of organizational identification. Uses the practices of sensegiving and sensebreaking as a basis for organizational identification. Argues that when both sensegiving and sensebreaking are successful, members will identify positively with the organization. When either sensegiving or sensebreaking fail, however, members will experience ambivalent organizational identification.

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  • Vough, H. “Not All Identifications Are Created Equal: Exploring Employee Accounts for Workgroup, Organizational, and Professional Identification.” Organization Science 23.3 (2012): 778–800.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1110.0654Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Qualitative study examining accounts given by employees about their identification with their work group, organization, and profession. The author groups the responses into four sensemaking logics: similarity, familiarity, benefits, and investment. The findings show that individuals develop identification differently across targets, which is largely determined by the proximity and characteristics of the target.

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