Strategy and struggle: discourses of learning, change and influence in later-career middle-managers’ identity-work

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The future of the workforce is grey. Workers classified as later-career workers, that is, those over the age of 50, currently comprise 20% of the European workforce and will represent 30% by the end of the current decade. The aim of this session is to enable participants to appreciate the extent and sources of learning in later-careers through the use of an identity lens. The session will present empirical findings from a study of later-career middle managers’ practice and learning. The qualitative, interpretivist study used image-elicitation methods to generate extensive narrative accounts of managerial practice and learning. This data is currently being analysed using both content analysis and narrative analysis approaches. The data collection and analytical approaches will be detailed and discussed. The data is being interpreted in the light of identity theorising, specifically post-structuralist notions of identity-work and identity-regulation. Theorising in this area will be overviewed and key debates highlighted and the researchers’ position asserted. Initial inductive analysis of the data demonstrated that, contrary to established research findings that later-career workers experience limited learning at work, the manager-participants actually experienced extensive learning in their workplaces. From this initial analysis it became clear that the manager-participants’ subjectivities were particularly prominent within their narratives of practice. These subjectivities and can be understood as both the object of learning and as integral to the process of learning. Further analysis is now showing that the narratives comprise considerable identity-work, whereby the managers were learning to “be” a particular type of manager, a manager who, for example, although late in their career journey, remained dynamic and open to change. Therefore, use of the identity lens has demonstrated that contrary to assumptions, these later-career managers were maintaining their employability, organisational contributions and capabilities for continuous learning late into their careers. It will be suggested that the experiences of these managers can contribute towards a better understanding of the ageing workforces of developed economies.


WorkshopBAM Workshop 'Becoming, being, learning, knowing: identity issues in management and professional education and development'
Period1/03/15 → …
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