chapter  2
20 Pages

Now where was I?

Identity-related issues have long been a feature of managerial practice and of writing aimed at practitioners. For example, managers have been exhorted to develop strong cultures in which people identify with organisational purpose (Deal and Kennedy 1982), develop leadership styles with which followers can identify (Semler 1993) and develop strong in-group ties in teams (Katzenbach and Smith 1993) such that there is peer group identification. The underlying presumption is that focused and unified identities will enable stronger performance and efficiency in the organisation. The critical literature which has developed alongside the managerialist literature has adopted an alternative perspective. There has been a focus on differentiated and fragmented cultures (Martin 1992), struggles within and between groups demonstrating tensions (Ezzamel et al. 2001) and a recognition of divisions and fractured unities (Parker 2000). However, this critical literature has not eliminated the attractiveness of the more unitary concept of the managerialist approach as this offers perceived certainties and answers to the demands for performance which are placed upon managers (Clark and Salaman 1998; Watson and Bargiela-Chiappini 1998). In this chapter, we will contrast alternative ways of ‘reading’ identity. The purpose of doing this is to be able to recognise the alternatives in practice and hence to be in a position to make choices about how one interacts in managerial situations. Our contention is that the uncritical ‘simple’ reading of identity misrepresents the complexity of social reality. Hence, although it may have the appearance of usefulness, in fact it lacks utility. Conversely, the more critical perspectives on identity may appear to be less pragmatic than the simple version, but we will argue that these are more useful in practice because they bring into question what, in many cases, may be fallacious assumptions.