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Past, Present and Future Research on Multiple Identities: Toward an Intrapersonal Network Approach

Pages 589-659 | Published online: 10 Jun 2014


Psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers have long recognized that people have multiple identities—based on attributes such as organizational membership, profession, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and family role(s)—and that these multiple identities shape people's actions in organizations. The current organizational literature on multiple identities, however, is sparse and scattered and has yet to fully capture this foundational idea. I review and organize the literature on multiple identities into five different theoretical perspectives: social psychological; microsociological; psychodynamic and developmental; critical; and intersectional. I then propose a way to take research on multiple identities forward using an intrapersonal identity network approach. Moving to an identity network approach offers two advantages: first, it enables scholars to consider more than two identities simultaneously, and second, it helps scholars examine relationships among identities in greater detail. This is important because preliminary evidence suggests that multiple identities shape important outcomes in organizations, such as individual stress and well-being, intergroup conflict, performance, and change. By providing a way to investigate patterns of relationships among multiple identities, the identity network approach can help scholars deepen their understanding of the consequences of multiple identities in organizations and spark novel research questions in the organizational literature.


I would like to thank Jennifer Berdahl and Royston Greenwood for their guidance and encouragement. I am grateful to Michel Anteby, Rachel Arnett, Blake Ashforth, Julie Battilana, Sigal Barsade, Stephanie Creary, Douglas Creed, Robin Ely, Noah Eisenkraft, Catarina Fernandes, Karen Jehn, Spencer Harrison, Shimul Melwani, Celia Moore, Tsedal Neeley, Otilia Obodaru, Jennifer Petriglieri, Jeff Polzer, Michael Pratt, Erin Reid, Ryan Raffaelli, Nancy Rothbard, Monica Stallings, Colleen Stuart, and Sarah Wittman for their feedback on this manuscript. I would like to thank Nichole Gregg, Emily LeRoux-Rutledge, Bonnie Lipton, and Steven Shafer for their assistance. I would also like to acknowledge my family, who enable me to write about multiple identities.


1. Column 1 in indicates which constructs are conceptually similar to identity conflict and enhancement and which constructs are conceptually based on integration or distinctiveness, regardless of the name. The sample items in Column 5 indicate the constructs that are captured. If two constructs are measured as opposites this is noted in Column 1.

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