When selves fall apart: the role of multiple identities in negotiating destabilised identification

Research Cluster

Speaker:Jennifer Petriglieri , INSEAD Business School, France
Date: Tuesday 12 February 2013
Time: 4.30pm
Location: Bateman Lecture Theatre

Further details

Through a qualitative study of BP executives during and after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident, I examine when and how organisational identification survives threats to organisational identity. I found that such threats destabilized members’ identification by throwing into question the identity meanings that connected individuals to their collective. Whether, and in what state, executives’ organisational identification survived destabilization depended on whether they could restore the organisational identity meanings threatened by the incident. Full restoration of these threatened meanings rested on executives gaining a new role that enabled them to take direct action in, and thus reconnect to, one of the domains of BP’s threatened organisational identity. When such direct tangible action was not possible, the audiences of their other identities—people with whom executives interacted when enacting non-BP related identities—became relevant for determining whether or not reidentification was possible. In these cases, the social support, or lack thereof, of these audiences was vital in restoring, or undermining, identity meanings and thus enabling, or killing, the possibility of reidentification. Building on these findings, I develop a model of negotiating destabilized identification and discuss its implications for theories of identity threat, identification, and the self.