Professionals becoming managers: personal predicaments, vulnerability and identity work

Sandra Corlett

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis explores identity work employed to secure stability and coherence of self-identity. This is achieved through an exploration of professionals becoming managers' experiences of vulnerability, conceived as personal predicaments, as they make a transition into and progress within management. This thesis takes up the invitation to dialogue with scholars from disparate philosophical orientations and epistemological commitments (Alvesson, Ashcraft and Thomas, 2008a; Smith and Sparkes, 2008) by reviewing critically the shared and contested views on self-identity. A theoretical framework is developed that conceptualises identity work within a fusion of symbolic interactionist positioning theory (Davies and Harr& 1990, 1999; Hart-6 and van Langenhove, 1991, 1999c) and relational social constructionist identity work processes (Beech and McInnes, 2006). This study's emergent focus on vulnerability, as experienced during role transitions (Hill, 1992, 2003; Watson and Harris, 1999) and ongoing personal predicaments (Schlenker, 1980), builds on the analytical importance of vulnerability (Sims, 2003), insecurity (Collinson, 2003), self-identity and identity work processes. Accounts of vulnerability as professionals make a transition into and progress within management are explored through a two-stage interview process with experienced public sector middle and senior managers from previously under-researched professional backgrounds (Cohen et al, 2002; Casey, 2008). Existing identity-related studies into professionals becoming managers (Hill, 1992, 2003; Ibarra, 1999; Watson and Harris, 1999) considered only the first year of transition into management. This research, therefore, adds to existing literature both through the type of participant and the extended nature of the study. The framework of self-identity presented is offered as a theoretical and methodological heuristic device. The thesis also offers refined conceptualisations of personal predicaments and of identity work processes, and insights into identity work strategies related to professional becoming managers' experiences of vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
  • Mavin, Sharon, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 May 2009


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