Identity works as internal, discursive legitimation process in the context of high status occupations facing new taint.
No Thumbnail Available
The present study explicitly engages with the underexplored internal perspective on discursive legitimation processes by investigating how internal legitimacy is constructed through identity work of high-status employees in the context of a newly stigmatized organization. 15 semistructured interviews have been conducted with (ex-)employees of the Rabobank, a large Dutch bank which has faced severe criticism with, and in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The results show that employees’ identity threats, following from the new occupational taint, were countered by taint management strategies that protected employees’ identities from internalizing the stigmatized perceptions. These identity discourses simultaneously showed affirmation with organization’s pragmatic legitimacy – by presenting the organization as serving employees’ personal interests, and moral legitimacy – by reflecting a positive normative evaluation of the organization through identification. The study introduces three main forms of identity work constructing internal legitimacy in the context of a newly stigmatized organization: identity discourses affirming moral or pragmatic legitimacy through refocusing tactics; identity discourses affirming moral legitimacy through rejecting tactics; and identity discourses affirming moral legitimacy through defensive tactics. Additionally, the study presents several narratives that systematically undermine identity discourses affirming moral or pragmatic legitimacy, which contests organization’s internal legitimacy.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen