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Understanding professional identity in unionized expert labor: an exploratory study of United States airline pilots following merger-acquisition events

Bedker II, J. L. (2016) Understanding professional identity in unionized expert labor: an exploratory study of United States airline pilots following merger-acquisition events. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This research introduces unionized expert labor to professional identity research with a focus on understanding the professional identity of commercial airline pilots in the United States. The research explores professional identity by directing its attention to two opposing views of identity literature. Whether professional identity is stable and enduring or whether it is socially constructed and malleable. This debate is explored through three lenses of investigation: how professional identity is experienced and defined for commercial airline pilots, how merger-acquisition (M/A) events have aided in understanding their professional identity, and how professionals negotiate their identity in a turbulent unionized context. The data makes a compelling case for professional identity as socially constructed in a dynamic and demanding 21st century world. The data was conjunctively collected and analyzed utilizing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Over 210 hours of semi-structured, in-depth interviews and over 500 hours of participant observation periods constituted this conjunctive approach. The qualitative methodology and analytics of IPA proved to be effective in individual and professional sensemaking following significant organizational change, making a methodological contribution to organizational studies. Each of the participants to this research experienced significant organizational change, exemplified in airline merger-acquisition events, affecting their professional lives, professional status and sense of being following their M/A event. The findings of this research contribute new knowledge and expand the literature on professional identity and the understanding of professional identity as socially constructed, malleable and dynamic. The research also expands the understanding of psychological contracts. As a contribution to practice, the research suggests a federal legislative initiative to address the disparate and subordinating union practices currently in effect following an M/A event.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Fenton, E. and Parkinson, A.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:68227
Date on Title Page:2016


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