Professional Service Firms and Identity

Mats Alvesson, Dan Kärreman, Katie Sullivan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter examines the relationship between individual and organizational identity in PSFs and the significant but tenuous nature of elite identity in this context. The authors identify four main identity-related issues for management control in PSFs: autonomy/conformity tensions, the client conundrum, ambiguity saturation, and intangibility. They explore three main modes of identity-focused control in PSFs: positive image, homogenization of the workforce, and anxiety-regulation. The chapter examines contemporary challenges to elite identities and the increasing critique of concepts of professionalism in this context and highlights key areas for future research on identity in PSFs and among professionals. These include: the need to acknowledge the homogeneity of professional service firms and professional workers; how professionals regulate their identity to respond to identity challenges; the roles that multiple actors play in a professional’s identity construction; and the depth of identity construction with regard to both organizational and professional identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms
EditorsJoseph Broschak, Laura Empson, Robert Hinings, Daniel Muzio
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199682393
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economics and Business

Free keywords

  • professional service firms
  • identity
  • elites
  • management control
  • professionalism
  • organizational identity


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