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Branding employees

Jean Cushen (Department of Sociology, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 27 March 2009




From the optimistic to the critical, the post‐structural to the market rational there are varied perspectives on normative control at work. The purpose of this paper is to describe a tactical evolution in normative control practices and explore how this development sits with each perspective.


The paper is based on a six month participant ethnography incorporating 75 interviews and document analysis. Data are presented from human resources, executives, managers and employees.


This paper presents an account of a leading, listed, global firm's attempt to align employees to the organisation's goals through fashioning an ideal employee identity based on the organisation brand. Perspectives are provided on the desired role and ultimate failure of this employee branding initiative. Indeed, branding may be a normative step too far. The paper demonstrates how the workplace comprises of a variety of experiential forces and employees are capable of deciding which are the most substantive. However, the existence of varied perspectives on normative control within the workplace can account for both its failure and perpetuation.

Research limitations/implications

The findings highlight the variety of forces that interact to shape perspectives of normative control within a workplace. Consequently, future research may benefit from adopting a more holistic analytical approach to avoid over or under estimating the role of normative control.


The novelty of this paper comes firstly from the account of a tactical normative development and secondly from the demonstration of the value of considering the role and impact of normative control from a variety of theoretical perspectives.



Cushen, J. (2009), "Branding employees", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 6 No. 1/2, pp. 102-114.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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