Original Research

Identity at work: Exploring strategies for Identity Work

Byron G. Adams, Anne Crafford
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 1 | a904 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i1.904 | © 2012 Byron G. Adams, Anne Crafford | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 April 2010 | Published: 19 September 2012

About the author(s)

Byron G. Adams, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Anne Crafford, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: This study explored strategies for identity work that are central to the negotiation and regulation of employee work identity.

Research purpose: The main aim of this study was to explore employee narratives and identify the strategies available to them in the process of identity work, as they defined themselves at work.

Motivation for the study: As there is a scarcity of research on identity work in South Africa, this study wanted to advance knowledge about identity work and the strategies used for regulating and negotiating an identity at work by exploring these constructs in this context.

Research design, approach and method: A qualitative research process formed the basis for this study. Nineteen employees from a global manufacturing company participated in two semi-structured in-depth interviews. Grounded theory was applied to analyse and interpret the data.

Main findings: Nine strategies for identity work were identified and categorised into four broad themes (personal philosophies; relationships; career management and negotiating balance).

Practical/managerial implications: Employees followed various strategies for defining themselves at work and this may have some implications for employee work engagement and productivity.

Contribution/value-add: This study expands on current theoretical knowledge of identity work, and provides insights into the strategies people use to regulate and negotiate their identities at work.



Identity; identity work; identity regulation; identity negotiation; strategies; South African perspective


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