Authentic work and organizational change: Longitudinal evidence from a merger

By: Mari Kira, David B. Balkin, Elina San


This article explores how a profound organizational change may impact employees’ abilities to work in an authentic manner. Authentic work hinges on subjectively experienced alignments between one’s work identity and the nature, purpose and practices of one’s work. It is proposed that people thrive when engaged in authentic work. The article is founded on a longitudinal qualitative case study in a public sector organization going through a merger. The interview data indicate that an organizational transformation may create (mis)alignments between work and identity on two levels. The informants considered whether their emerging work corresponded to their core self-definitions at work and whether they were able to carry out their work in a manner they found meaningful. Authentic work and positive individual-level outcomes resulted from alignments between work and identity, interpreted as chances for self-continuity or self-enhancement, and from new work practices that made it possible to realize values and beliefs about work. Inauthenticity was experienced when the new job in the post-merger organization was experienced as more confined, wrongly focused, and when the competence demands misaligned with self-assessed competences. The article provides examples of how the informants aimed at realigning their identities and work by carrying out job crafting and identity work.