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The Organizational Identity of a Family Business: The Role of Hybrid Identity in Organizaitonal Events Open Access

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The social actor conceptualization of organizational identity has been defined asthe &ldquoclaims; made” by those who can speak for the organization which delineate &ldquothecentral; and enduring attributes of an organization that distinguish it from otherorganizations” (Whetten, 2006, p. 220). As hybrid organizations emanate from thedictates of two institutions, a hybrid organizational identity is characterized by competingidentity claims that are inviolate, indispensable, and incompatible (Albert & Adams,2002; Albert, Godfrey, & Whetten, 1999). This qualitative case study explored theorganizational identity claims of a 70 year old family owned business in the refrigeratedfood logistics industry. The research objective was to ascertain whether organizationalidentity claims competed with one another as the entity encountered critical events in itshistory, and if so, how these competing claims were navigated. Data were gathered fromdocuments, interviews, and observations. Results revealed five organizational identityclaims that were not inherently incompatible; a claim of family ownership and controlemerged roughly as the first OI claim, connecting the entity to the values of an earlyleader, and appeared to preside over critical events in the history of the enterprise as ananchoring claim. Results related to differing legacies of early founders, contextual issuesregarding opportunities presented by untimely succession, and the value of outsidedirectors also emerged from the study. Conclusions offer refinements to organizationalidentity theory, suggesting the utility of the construct in examining critical events, andprovide the first application of hybrid organizational identity theory to family businessresearch.

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