Hitting Rock Bottom After Job Loss: Bouncing Back to Create a New Positive Work Identity

Although people often value work identities, events sometimes threaten these identities, creating situations where individuals struggle to overcome the identity threat. Building on the theories of identity and escape from self, we develop a “rock bottom” model of generating a new positive work identity. Specifically, individuals who eventually hit rock bottom come to realize that the identity has been lost, which can lead to a path to recovery or to a path to dysfunction. The path to recovery involves escape through identity play and the oscillation between disciplined identity play and identity refinement/validation. The path to dysfunction involves escape though cognitive deconstruction. Regulatory focus is important in distinguishing between those who engage in identity play to generate possible new positive identities (i.e., promotion focus) and those who engage in cognitive dysfunction (i.e., prevention focus). A deeper understanding of why some recover and others languish provides an opportunity to develop interventions that facilitate recovery from work identity loss.

Publication Date:
Jan 01 2018
Date Submitted:
Jun 21 2019
Academy of Management Review

Note: The status of this file is: public

 Record created 2019-06-21, last modified 2019-08-05

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