Reputation and identity conflict in management consulting
Harvey, William S.
Müller Santos, Milena
Based on a case study of a large consulting firm, this paper makes two contributions to the literature on reputation and identity by examining how an organization responds when its identity is substantially misaligned with the experience and perceptions of external stakeholders that form the basis of reputational judgments. First, rather than triggering some form of identity adaptation, it outlines how other forms of identity can come into play to remediate this gap, buffering the organization’s identity from change. This shift to other individual identities is facilitated by a low organizational identity context even when the identity of the firm is coherent and strong. The second contribution concerns the conceptualization of consulting and other professional service firms. We explain how reputation and identity interact in the context of the distinctive organizational features of these firms. Notably, their loosely coupled structure and the central importance of expert knowledge claims enable individual consultants both to reinforce and supplement corporate reputation via individual identity work.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
Published online 5 May 2016