Professional identity and role transition in times of adversity

Corentin Curchod, Gerardo Patriotta, Grégory Reyes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The literature on role identity and identity work has explained how people in occupations experience identity tensions when their occupational role changes, and how they engage in identity work to re-establish a sense of coherence. Role change proves especially challenging for professionals, as their roles tend to be more rigidly scripted and more intertwined with their self than for non-professionals. Professionals are nevertheless likely to experience role change, in particular when they are mobilized to respond to crises. Existing literature has mainly focused on incremental role change that takes place during work transition, which is of limited help in explaining identity work in situations of turmoil. The objective of this paper is to investigate how professionals maintain a coherent sense of who they are in contexts of unexpected change in role expectations. We address this issue by using interview data gathered from pharmacists in France before and during the covid-19 pandemic. We found that their professional identity encompassed a hierarchy of role identities, and that the pandemic, by giving pharmacists the role of being the main point of contact with the population regarding healthcare, led to identity tensions and a rapid recalibration between their different roles. Our findings contribute to role identity literature by showing how hybrid roles may serve as a buffer between professional identity and sudden role change. They also shed light on the dynamics between professional identity, role structure, and moral judgment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2023
EventAcademy of Management Annual meeting - Boston, Boston, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20238 Aug 2023
Conference number: 83


ConferenceAcademy of Management Annual meeting
Abbreviated titleAoM
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • role identity
  • professional identity
  • role change
  • identity work
  • Covid-19 pandemic


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