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Identity narratives under threat: A study of former members of Arthur Andersen

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  • Gendron, Yves
  • Spira, Laura F.

Abstract

This paper examines the processes by which individuals work their sense of organizational and professional identity in the aftermath of a professional failure. Drawing on twenty-five interviews carried out with former members of Arthur Andersen who mostly worked for the firm in Canada and the United Kingdom, we investigate interviewees' identity work ensuing from the breakdown of the firm. Specifically, identity work comprises processes by which individuals reflectively seek to maintain or revise their sense of identification with the AA organization and also with the public accounting profession, along with developing self-understandings regarding causes and consequences ensuing from the firm's collapse. Our analysis indicates that four interpretive schemes or patterns mainly characterize interviewees' identity work: disillusion; resentfulness; rationalization; and hopefulness. Each of these patterns can be viewed as conveying a distinct representation of what "truly" happened within AA. In this sense, identity work, sense-making and truth contests are inextricably linked altogether. Moreover, the present paper underlines the pertinence of studying entangled processes of identity work and sense-making in order to better understand how broader social forces or discourses (e.g., commercialization and risk) are experienced and translated by the self in the context of identity-threatening events. That is, the identity work/sense-making nexus constitutes a relevant theoretical anchoring to study the circulation of discourses in society.

Suggested Citation

  • Gendron, Yves & Spira, Laura F., 2010. "Identity narratives under threat: A study of former members of Arthur Andersen," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 275-300, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:35:y:2010:i:3:p:275-300
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    Cited by:

    1. Guénin-Paracini, Henri & Malsch, Bertrand & Paillé, Anne Marché, 2014. "Fear and risk in the audit process," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 264-288.
    2. Annisette, Marcia & Trivedi, Viswanath Umashanker, 2013. "Globalization, paradox and the (un)making of identities: Immigrant Chartered Accountants of India in Canada," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 1-29.
    3. Stéphan Pezé, 2013. "Controlling managers' 'becoming': the practice of identity regulation," Post-Print hal-00849533, HAL.
    4. Joyce, Yvonne, 2014. "Knowledge mandates in the state–profession dynamic: A study of the British insolvency profession," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 590-614.
    5. Joe O’Mahoney, 2011. "Advisory Anxieties: Ethical Individualisation in the UK Consulting Industry," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 104(1), pages 101-113, November.
    6. Bertrand Malsch & Yves Gendron, 2013. "Re-Theorizing Change: Institutional Experimentation and the Struggle for Domination in the Field of Public Accounting," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(5), pages 870-899, July.
    7. Alia Miledi & Benoit Pigé, 2013. "Le Jugement Professionnel En Audit : Enquete Aupres Des Associes Signataires," Post-Print hal-01002359, HAL.
    8. Ioana Lupu (ioan), 2011. "Approved routes and alternative paths: the construction of women's rarity in large accounting firms. Evidence from the Big Four France," Working Papers halshs-00626044, HAL.
    9. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10083 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Kornberger, Martin & Carter, Chris & Ross-Smith, Anne, 2010. "Changing gender domination in a Big Four accounting firm: Flexibility, performance and client service in practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 775-791, November.
    11. Malsch, Bertrand & Gendron, Yves, 2011. "Reining in auditors: On the dynamics of power surrounding an “innovation” in the regulatory space," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 456-476.
    12. Claire France Picard & Sylvain Durocher & Yves Gendron, 2013. "From Meticulous Professionals To Superheroes Of The Business World: A Historical Portrait Of A Cultural Change In The Field Of Accountancy," Post-Print hal-00993019, HAL.
    13. Laetitia Legalais, 2015. "L'Influence D'Un Blocage De Carriere Sur La Construction De L'Identite Professionnelle : Le Cas Des Contrôleurs De Gestion," Post-Print hal-01188764, HAL.
    14. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10084 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Braithwaite, John, 2013. "Flipping markets to virtue with qui tam and restorative justice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 458-468.

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