Identity under Construction: How Individuals Come to Define Themselves in Organizations

Blake Ashforth, Beth S. Schinoff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


Individuals need a situated identity, or a clear sense of 'who they are' in their local context, to function. Drawing largely on interpretivist research, we describe the process of identity construction in organizations. Organizations set the stage for members to construct their identities through sensebreaking, rendering individuals more receptive to organizational cues conveyed via sensegiving. Individuals utilize sensemaking to construe their situated identity as they progress toward a desired self. Affect (feeling 'this is me'), behavior (acting as 'me'), and cognition (thinking 'this is me') are each viable and intertwined gateways to a situated identity that resonates with one's desired self and a given context. Individuals formulate identity narratives that link their past and present to a desired future, providing direction. If their identity enactments and narratives receive social validation, individuals feel more assured, fortifying their emergent identities. The result of these dynamics is a visceral understanding of self in the local context, facilitating adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-137
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior
StatePublished - 2016


  • identity construction
  • identity motives
  • narratives
  • sensemaking
  • social validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Identity under Construction: How Individuals Come to Define Themselves in Organizations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this