Theory and research concerning organizational identity (“who we are as an organization”) is a burgeoning domain within organization study. A great deal of conceptual and empirical work has been accomplished within the last three decades—especially concerning the phenomenon of organizational identity change. More recently, work has been devoted to studying the processes and content associated with identity formation. Given the amount of scholarly work done to date, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the perspectives, controversies and outcomes of this body of work. Because organizational identity change has received the preponderance of attention, we first review that extensive literature. We consider the conceptual and empirical work concerning the three putative “pillars” of identity (i.e. that which is ostensibly central, enduring, and distinctive). We devote particular attention to the most controversial of these pillars—the debate pitting a view that sees identity as stable over time (a position we term as the “enduring identity proposition”) and a contrasting stance that sees identity as more changeable (the “dynamic identity proposition”). Following our review of the identity change literature, we next take up a review of the notably smaller compendium of work on identity formation. We consider the conceptual and empirical work devoted to studying the external influences on, as well as the internal resources used, to fashion a nascent identity. Finally, we discuss in more depth the controversies associated with the pillars of identity, assess the four prevalent views on organizational identity (the social construction, social actor, institutionalist, and population ecologist views), assimilate the research on both identity formation and change, and consider the prospects for future work on both phenomena.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Business and International Management
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management