Addressing the inherent ethereality and mutability of organisational identity and image: a Bakhtinian response

Publication Name

International Journal of Organizational Analysis


Purpose: This conceptual paper aims to respond to the dearth of theory and mechanisms for handling the inherent ethereality, multiplicity and mutability of organisational identity and organisational image. Design/methodology/approach: This study considers existing approaches to organisational identity noting the diverse understandings of the paradoxical nature of identity. The authors suggest that identity is still essentially perceived as what is core and enduring about the character of an organisation with changes of identity being viewed as occurrences effectuated by events. In contrast, the authors argue that, because of the fluid interrelationships between identity and image, organisational identity is better viewed as an unstable construct. Findings: Departing from Bakhtin’s logic of dialogism, this study proposes that identity–image result from dialogic relationships which in turn construct a system of polyphony. This study devises a preliminary polyphonic model which has the capacity to incorporate diverse stakeholder associations and fluctuating interpretations as well as situational understandings of organisational messages. Originality/value: This study’s proposed model allows to trace how organisational identity–image is continually co-constructed recursively and cyclically and to systematise the various voices that are important for an organisation’s strategic objectives.

Open Access Status

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