Power between emotions and identities: how designers navigate M&A processes

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Drawing on literature on emotions management and identity work strategies, in this study we investigate how, following an M&A process with a consulting firm, emotion and identity work strategies might explain the patterns of change in the designers’ identity. In this regard, we focus on the political nature of the relationship between emotions and identity. Relying on data from 64 in-depth interviews with designers and consultants, as part of a broader ethnographic study, this manuscript elaborates a theoretical model which illustrates the political processes underpinning the relationship between emotion management and identity work strategies. Through this research, we contribute to extant literature emphasizing a processual view of the link between emotions and identity, by providing a more fine-grained explanation of power-based processes underlying emotions and identity strategies. We highlight how emotions could be managed for the political purpose of influencing the status of professional groups within an organization, and we illustrate how this emotions-political processes might lead to different identity strategies, ranging from identity affirmation to diminishing and renouncing to one’s own professional identity.