Identity affirmation as threat? Time-bending sensemaking and the career and family identity patterns of early achievers

Patricia C. Dahm, Yeonka Kim, Theresa M. Glomb, Spencer H. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We develop a model of dual identity affirmation through which professionals make sense of their career and family identities by incorporating past and future identity enactment into present self-concepts, and by enacting suspended career or family identities in fleeting momentary ways. The model emerged from a qualitative inductive study of professionals whose career identities had been affirmed by achieving early career success recognized by a 40 Under 40 Award. Identity affirmation often sparked career and family identity threat that individuals resolved through time-bending sensemaking. During times of family focus, early achievers attained a sense of dual identity affirmation by believing that they had in the past (identity residue), or would again in the future (identity projection), focus on the career role, mitigating career identity threat. During periods of career focus, they similarly projected future or remembered past family involvement to mitigate family identity threat. Early achievers also found more fleeting ways to maintain their identities in identity bursts that helped them resolve threat to their career or family identity while the other was taking precedence. Three identity patterns emerged: identity bursts anchored chronic accelerating, while residue was key to lane switching; seasonalizing was anchored by both residue and projecting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1225
Number of pages32
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

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Copyright of the Academy of Management, all rights reserved.


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