Börje Boers (2013)

Organizational identity construction in family businesses a dualities perspective

This dissertation is about organizational identity construction with a dualities perspective. By taking a dualities perspective the focus shifts from assuming that organizational identity actually is in place towards organizational identity construction where identities are socially constructed. A dualities perspective is very suitable for studying family business where family and business are seen as interdependent and interconnected forming a duality. Family business is an identity statement. Family business identities are constructed by stakeholders by managing a set of dualities. Dualities cause tensions because of the dual poles. These tensions need to be balanced in order to draw on both poles and maintain the family business identities.

In an empirical study of two media organizations dualities of informality/formality, independence-dependence, historic paths-new paths, and commercial-journalistic are used to understand how stakeholders balance the tensions in these dualities and thereby construct organizational identities. The study reveals the central role of owning family members in organizational identity construction. 

The dualities perspective broadens studies on organizational identity construction as it accounts for the peculiarities of family businesses. I argue that these dualities are basis for constructing organizational identities that require stakeholders to work with managing the inherent tensions in the dualities. This means that owning family members and organizational members are continuously involved in constructing organizational identities when managing the dualities.

Based on my findings I recommend owning families to consider that being a family business is an identity statement implying that other stakeholders will consider them as role model whether they like it or not. Therefore owning family members should devote attention to manage dualities and balance inherent tensions. Then being a family business can be advantageous because they can draw on both family and business dimensions.