December 07, 2017
Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.
From Synchronizing to Harmonizing: The Process of Authenticating Multiple Work Identities
Be true to yourself. Be genuine. Be authentic. This is the advice often given by well-intentioned mentors, in management books, popular press articles, and in commencement speeches. But what does it actually mean to be authentic in the gig economy where workers play a variety of roles, each of which threatens to constrain or suppress the enactment of one’s true self? To understand how people cultivate and sustain authenticity in multiple, often shifting, work roles, we analyzed qualitative data gathered over five years from a sample of 48 plural careerists—people who choose to simultaneously hold and identify with multiple jobs. We find that people with multiple work identities struggle with being, feeling, and seeming authentic both to their contextualized work roles and to their broader work selves. Further, practices developed to cope with these struggles change over time, suggesting a two-phase emergent process of authentication in which people first synchronize their individual work role identities and then progress toward harmonizing a more general work self. This study challenges the notion that consistency is the core of authenticity, demonstrating that for people with multiple valued identities, authenticity is not about being true to one identity across time and contexts, but instead involves creating and holding cognitive and social space for several true versions of oneself that may change over time. It suggests that authentication is the emergent, socially constructed process of both determining who one is and helping others see who one is. Implications for how individuals can build a sense of authenticity and resilience in the gig economy will be discussed.
Brianna Barker Caza is an Associate Professor in the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and has previously been affiliated with institutions in both North America and the Asia Pacific Region including the University of Illinois, Wake Forest University, the Center for Creative Leadership, the University of Auckland, and Griffith University. Professor Caza’s research program seeks to understand the resources and processes that produce resilience in turbulent and dynamic work contexts. Through her research, she seeks to identify ways individuals and organizations can create work environments that allow professionals to correct errors and thrive amidst unexpected events and environmental changes. She has a particular interest in identity dynamics related to the gig economy, multiple role holding, and marginalized work populations.
Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.