Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Portable Selves; Identity Work; Identity Workspaces; Qualitative Research; Business Schools;
Through a longitudinal, qualitative study of managers attending an international master’s of business administration (MBA) the authors build a process model of the crafting of portable selves in temporary identity workspaces.These findings revealed that contemporary careers in general, and temporary membership in the institution, fueled people’s efforts to craft portable selves, that is, selves endowed with definitions, motives, and abilities that can be deployed across roles and organizations over time.Two pathways for crafting a portable self—one adaptive, the other exploratory—emerged from the interaction of individuals’ aims and concerns with institutional resources and demands. Each involved developing a coherent understanding of the self vis-à-vis others and the institution that anchored participants to their current organization while preparing them for future ones.The study shows how institutions that host members temporarily can help them craft selves that afford a sense of agentic direction and enduring connection, tempering anxieties and bolstering hopes associated to mobile working lives. It also suggests that institutions serving as identity workspaces for portable selves may remain attractive in an age of workforce mobility and extend their cultural influence.