To read this content please select one of the options below:

Identity work and play

Herminia Ibarra (INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France)
Jennifer L. Petriglieri (INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 16 February 2010




The purpose of this paper is to introduce the concept of identity play defined as people's engagement in provisional but active trial of possible future selves.


Current research and theorizing on the variety of strategies and behaviors used by individuals to tailor, adapt or otherwise change their identities has converged on the notion of identity work to conceptualize these processes. This paper introduces an alternative but complementary notion – identity play – and develops a framework that specifies how identity work and play differ from each other, and proposes a set of ideas about the process of identity play in role transitions.


The authors theorize that role transitions are a useful context to explore identity play and that just as individuals move between cycles of career stability and professional transitions so may they move between periods of identity work and play.


The concept of identity play provides a useful starting point to explore the multiple, often incoherent and variable nature of the self as well as the process of exploration and discovery necessary for creating new identities.



Ibarra, H. and Petriglieri, J.L. (2010), "Identity work and play", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 10-25.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles