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Dealing with multiple incompatible work-related identities: the case of artists

Sophie Hennekam (ESC La Rochelle School of Business, La Rochelle, France) (IRGO, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine how artists deal with having multiple potentially incompatible work-related identities as a result of a career transition from making a living exclusively as artists to taking on additional work outside the creative industries.


In all, 40 semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted by telephone with artists in the Netherlands. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the findings.


Four different strategies for dealing with multiple potentially incompatible identities were identified: integration, accumulation, separation and dis-identification. The findings suggest that the informal social context, the support of rejection of important others, influenced the strategy adopted by the artists. Invalidation from the environment often leads to stress and separation or dis-identification strategies, while validation seems to lead to integration and accumulation strategies that are less psychologically straining.

Practical implications

The findings stress the importance of the external environment. While the workers had to deal with their own psychological stress and regret about not succeeding at working exclusively as artists, they also had to create a feasible story that allowed them to “sell” their transition to others.


Careers are becoming increasingly non-linear, and the number of workers who need to juggle multiple (potentially conflicting) work-related identities is rising. However, how workers deal with this has received only limited attention from researchers.



Hennekam, S. (2017), "Dealing with multiple incompatible work-related identities: the case of artists", Personnel Review, Vol. 46 No. 5, pp. 970-987.



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