University of Oulu

Identities at work—narratives from a post-bureaucratic ICT organization

Saved in:
Author: Kuusipalo, Jaana T.1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: 2008
Publish Date: 2008-11-25
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of the University of Oulu, for public defence in Auditorium TA105, Linnanmaa, on December 5th, 2008, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Mihaela Kelemen
Professor Susan Meriläinen


The purpose of this research is to study identity construction in an ICT organization, which is generally seen as a flexible environment to be employed. The demise of a bureaucracy is generally seen as a positive thing. In new organizational forms employee participation is considered a central factor. The lack of boundaries in work brings not only freedom but also challenges. Organizations, tasks and people change constantly and employees find that they have to reconstruct their identities.

This study is inductive, meaning that any theoretical frame was not chosen before doing the empirical analysis. The paradigm underlying narrative research is similar to constructivism in that human knowledge is not regarded as a coherent view of reality but as a plurality of small narratives, local and personal in nature, which are always under construction. The constructivist paradigm is based on the idea that social reality is socially constructed.

This study contributes to identity narrative discussion and is thus current. Four different identity narratives are produced within this study: nostalgic, future-oriented, instrumental and chameleon narrative. Hence, the analysis resulted in four separate identity narratives. The relationship between the individual and the organization vary in each of the identity narratives. The empirical results also show that older employees produce more coherent identity stories and appear to be more committed to the organization. For younger employees the company is not as important, instead are more committed to their own career, family or something else. This is a significant result both theoretically and empirically. Theoretically it is interesting because it shows that in constructing identity, the organization does not have a central role. Empirically it means that the skilled employees might easily leave the organization if they feel they are not respected or if the organization does not support their personal careers.

The present study provides evidence of narrativity supporting the construction of identity in a post-bureaucratic organization. Maintaining open dialogue requires open communication, which is not present in traditional, bureaucratic, top-down management. A post-bureaucratic organization allows for open dialogue in principle, but the time and space needed for narration in this environment is fragmented.

see all

Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. G, Oeconomica
ISSN-E: 1796-2269
ISBN: 978-951-42-8945-3
ISBN Print: 978-951-42-8944-6
Issue: 35
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2008. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.