The Interplay between Internal and External Identity Work when Institutional Change Threatens the Collective Identity: The Case of a Wholesaler Faced with the Rise of Central Purchasing

  • Sophie Michel HuManiS (EA 7308), EM Strasbourg Business School, Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France
  • Karim Ben-Slimane ISC Paris, Paris, France
Keywords: Organizational identity, Identity work, Institutional change, Wholsesaling


An organization’s identity, as defined by its members, must be aligned with its collective identity prescribed by institutions. This alignment is broken when an institutional change threatens the collective identity and jeopardizes the existence of a group of organizations. They then undertake to carry out identity work, both internal and external, in order to establish a new alignment. Based on a single case study, this research article explores the interplay between the two forms of identity work: internal and external. The findings of this study reveal that introspective internal identity work feeds the work to repair the collective identity with traditional values that have been rediscovered thanks to a reflexive examination of self by the organization. By internal extrospection identity work, the external identity repair work is fed with new values that the organization internalizes and enacts in its practices. Based on these findings, this article puts forward new theoretical propositions, as well as a model of the interplay between internal and external identity work that aims to realign the organization’s identity with that of the collective.


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1. We use a pseudonym in order to maintain confidentiality and anonymity.

2. The quality inspector (agréeur in French) is responsible for receiving products and inspecting them.

3. Interviews are only numbered for respondents who were interviewed several times.

How to Cite
Michel, S., & Ben-Slimane, K. (2021). The Interplay between Internal and External Identity Work when Institutional Change Threatens the Collective Identity: The Case of a Wholesaler Faced with the Rise of Central Purchasing. M@n@gement, 24(3), 1-18.
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