Article | Academy of Management Review | October 2013

Shattering the Myth of Separate Worlds: Negotiating Non-Work Identities at Work

by Lakshmi Ramarajan and Erin M. Reid


How much of our self is defined by our work? Fundamental changes in the social organization of work are destabilizing the relationship between work and the self. As a result, parts of the self traditionally considered outside the domain of work, i.e., "non-work" identities, are increasingly affected by organizations and occupations. Based on an interdisciplinary review of literature on identity and work we develop a model of how people negotiate non-work identities (e.g., national, gender, family) in the context of organizational/occupational pressures and personal preferences regarding this identity. We propose that the dual forces of pressures and preferences vary from inclusion (e.g., incorporating the non-work identity within the work identity) to exclusion (e.g., keeping the identities separate). We suggest that the alignment or misalignment of these pressures and preferences shapes peoples' experience of the power relationship between themselves and their organization/occupation and affects how they manage their non-work identities. We describe how people enact different non-work identity management strategies—namely assenting to, complying with, resisting, or inverting the pressures—and delineate the consequences of these strategies for people and their organizations/occupations.

Keywords: identity; diversity; technology; Technology; Strategy; Identity; Jobs and Positions; Diversity;


Ramarajan, Lakshmi, and Erin M. Reid. "Shattering the Myth of Separate Worlds: Negotiating Non-Work Identities at Work." Academy of Management Review 38, no. 4 (October 2013): 621–644. (Published online before print, January 15, 2013.)