Between narration and interaction: situating first-line supervisor identity work



Publication Details

Down, S. & Reveley, J. (2009). Between narration and interaction: situating first-line supervisor identity work. Human Relations, 62 (3), 379-401.


This article examines how frontline managers establish managerial identities. It combines narrational and Goffmanesque conceptions of managerial identity work in a longitudinal study of one first-line supervisor at a restructured Australian industrial plant. We argue that, singly, neither self-narration nor dramaturgical performance accounts for the practical discursive work that constructs managerial `identity'. We demonstrate that frontline manager identity work is an iterative process in which self-narration and dramaturgical performance are almost seamlessly interwoven. The supervisor uses these different identity work stratagems simultaneously, and they are processually co-dependent. We conclude, therefore, that organizational scholars who study how persons construct managerial identities should take Goffman's dramaturgical perspective more seriously. It is an indispensible complement to the analysis of identity narratives, because successful performances undergird managers' attempts to craft stable narrative identities.

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