Purpose - The purpose of this exploratory article is to develop understanding of the theory of identity-work and to then deploy this understanding in examining managers’ identity-work. These understandings provide a basis for appreciating managers’ receptivity to learning and, in turn, for considering the likely efficacy of management development. Design/methodology/approach - A qualitative, photo-elicitation interview research study is detailed in which managers’ accounts of being a manager were generated. Findings - The accounts of a sample of managers are analysed through the lens of identity-work using a range of narrative analysis techniques. The findings of the study reveal the use of six distinct types of identity-work that have potential for explicating managers’ receptivity for learning. Research limitations/implications - The strengths of the qualitative research approach are expounded but certain limitations are acknowledged and therefore opportunities for extending the research trajectory are proposed. Specific implications for training and development practice are developed. Originality/value - The study contributes to the literature of workplace learning and HRD by showing the potential of understanding identity for appreciating managers’ receptivity to learning and, thereby, the efficacy of management development activity.