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The best and the brightest: The construction, significance and effects of elite identities in consulting firms

Alvesson, Mats LU and Robertson, M (2006) In Organization 13(2). p.195-224
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to investigate the forms, significance and effects of elite identity constructions in four consulting firms based in the UK and Sweden. The paper examines a range of strategic and symbolic mechanisms that were used by the senior members and other actors of these firms to construct an elite organizational identity. In terms of general effects, an elite social identity was found to generate a 'neoliberal' form of governance in all of the cases such that consultants could be trusted to act and behave in the interests of the firm. We argue that elite constructions facilitated: (i) the promotion of self-discipline which sustained a want to accomplish high standards of performance; (ii) the attraction and retention of... (More)
The aim of this paper is to investigate the forms, significance and effects of elite identity constructions in four consulting firms based in the UK and Sweden. The paper examines a range of strategic and symbolic mechanisms that were used by the senior members and other actors of these firms to construct an elite organizational identity. In terms of general effects, an elite social identity was found to generate a 'neoliberal' form of governance in all of the cases such that consultants could be trusted to act and behave in the interests of the firm. We argue that elite constructions facilitated: (i) the promotion of self-discipline which sustained a want to accomplish high standards of performance; (ii) the attraction and retention of consultants; (iii) the securing of an image that clients were prepared to engage with; and (iv) a degree of 'ontological security'-a relatively secure sense of self-which enabled consultants to function effectively in high-ambiguity and somewhat sceptical (with respect to clients) work contexts. In the contexts discussed here, consultants not only managed themselves, but they also intensified the commitment to live an organizational life that demanded high standards and often very long working days. (Less)
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author
and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
knowledge work, identity, consultancy firms, control
in
Organization
volume
13
issue
2
pages
195 - 224
publisher
SAGE Publications
external identifiers
  • wos:000236848900002
  • scopus:33745641698
ISSN
1350-5084
DOI
10.1177/1350508406061674
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
bf24c0e0-ca96-4dc7-beca-ac1e97498850 (old id 693339)
date added to LUP
2016-04-01 16:43:17
date last changed
2020-10-07 04:25:23
@article{bf24c0e0-ca96-4dc7-beca-ac1e97498850,
  abstract     = {The aim of this paper is to investigate the forms, significance and effects of elite identity constructions in four consulting firms based in the UK and Sweden. The paper examines a range of strategic and symbolic mechanisms that were used by the senior members and other actors of these firms to construct an elite organizational identity. In terms of general effects, an elite social identity was found to generate a 'neoliberal' form of governance in all of the cases such that consultants could be trusted to act and behave in the interests of the firm. We argue that elite constructions facilitated: (i) the promotion of self-discipline which sustained a want to accomplish high standards of performance; (ii) the attraction and retention of consultants; (iii) the securing of an image that clients were prepared to engage with; and (iv) a degree of 'ontological security'-a relatively secure sense of self-which enabled consultants to function effectively in high-ambiguity and somewhat sceptical (with respect to clients) work contexts. In the contexts discussed here, consultants not only managed themselves, but they also intensified the commitment to live an organizational life that demanded high standards and often very long working days.},
  author       = {Alvesson, Mats and Robertson, M},
  issn         = {1350-5084},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {195--224},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications},
  series       = {Organization},
  title        = {The best and the brightest: The construction, significance and effects of elite identities in consulting firms},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1350508406061674},
  doi          = {10.1177/1350508406061674},
  volume       = {13},
  year         = {2006},
}