Caza, Moss, & Vough (2018). From Synchronizing to Harmonizing: The Process of Authenticating Multiple Work Identities

Brianna Caza – UNC Greensboro
Sherry Moss – Wake Forest University
Heather Vough – George Mason University

Jacob Brown – Boston College
Kyle Dobson – UT Austin

Article Link:

1.    What was your focus (RQ, etc.) in your first submission, and do you feel like the paper changed in ways that you liked?  

Brianna Caza: While our paper always broadly aimed to build a deep understanding of the psychological experience of multiple jobholding, the focus of our paper did evolve through the review process.  The most dramatic shift was between the first and second submissions. The review team had encouraged us to go back into refine and deepen our theorizing, and to do this, we returned to the field. As we collected and analyzed an entirely new wave of data our theorizing progressed from being variance-based to process-based. Specifically, we shifted from theorizing about the outcomes associated with different multiple identity management styles toward explaining the unfolding process of authentication in the context of job complexity. This process became the core of the manuscript that was eventually published.  We were very fortunate to have landed three very developmental reviewers and two supportive editors who guided us through this advancement in our analysis and theorizing, and who helped us to refine and convey the insights honed from our data. 

2.    Which requests from the review team were the most challenging?

Brianna Caza: The request that was the most challenging was the continual push through the entire review process to strengthen the theoretical contribution offered by this paper. Like many qualitative papers, one of the main pieces of feedback we got on our initial submission was that we needed to narrow and deepen our focus to craft a compelling theoretical contribution. We started with a broad and rich presentation of a very interesting phenomenon, and through their comments the review team was rightly trying to move us toward providing a more focused and compelling and detailed explanation of the phenomenon. Yet, because we were so attached to the entirety of the stories of our informants and immersed in all of the nuances and complexities in our data, we initially struggled to figure out what should be the focal point of our theorizing. Even in the later rounds of revision, once we had a theoretical model whose scope and depth worked for the review team, we had trouble clearly situating this story in the broader literature in a way that truly highlighted how it was advancing management conversations.  In the third round of revisions, we wrote and re-wrote our introduction section of the paper over 35 times to try to find the right framing for our paper which ultimately ended at the intersection of identity plurality and authenticity.

3.    Is there something about this paper that remained relatively constant throughout this process?

Brianna Caza: The thing that remained constant throughout the review process was a desire to amplify the voices and experiences of the segment of the multiple jobholding community who are psychologically motivated rather than financially motivated to pursue multiple vocations simultaneously. 

4.    You present data from many types of workers, though there appears to be an emphasis on women with multiple jobs.  If you were to begin data collection again, how (if at all) might your sampling strategy be different from (or similar to) what you did? 

Brianna Caza: This is a really interesting question. A little over 60% of our final sample identified as female, but we certainly did not intend to have a larger number of females in our sample. While we initially stumbled across multiple jobholders in an earlier study of sources of meaning at work, when we began purposefully sampling multiple jobholders, we found them hard to find. This is likely because, to some extent, multiple jobholding is less normative, and maybe even marginalized in some respects—at least our participants reported feeling as though their multiple jobholding was marginalized. As a result, we used a number of different techniques to try to find members of this hidden population including snowball sampling, internet searches, and attending gatherings for multiple jobholding communities. However, since we began collecting this data almost ten years ago, multiple jobholding seems to be becoming more normative, perhaps because of the increased salience in virtual platforms that can be used to find additional work. As well, anecdotal evidence suggests that the pandemic appears to be further encouraging many to explore their vocational passions and perhaps even hedge their occupational bets by finding additional ways to generate income. As a result, we suspect it may be easier to find and access multiple jobholders now.

5.    How do you think people with these different identities managed during the pandemic, given how much boundary management was a part of your data?

Brianna Caza: This is a fascinating question and one that we have thought a lot about over the last couple of years. As we have continued to track the work lives of our participants through social media, we have found that there some who continued to pivot their work pursuits in ways that accommodated the changing marketplace. For instance, several of our participants began virtual consulting projects during the pandemic. Additionally, we think that the pandemic may have motivated some more traditional jobholders to jump into multiple jobholding. This is because the existential awareness brought on by the pandemic prompted many to think more deeply about their work, and assess whether or not it was truly meaningful. As well, the large-scale shift to working from home likely made it easier for some to develop their passion-projects into full-scale side hustles. Yet, while our tracking from afar seems to suggest that the pandemic may have led people to explore multiple jobholding, we don’t really know whether work going virtual has made it easier or harder for workers to develop and sustain a sense of authenticity while doing so. This is an open question for future research!

6.    You discovered so many interesting ways that people think about their multiple work identities. How did you determine when your analysis of your data was finished?

Brianna Caza: We stopped collecting data when we felt we were at the point of theoretical saturation. In other words, we got to the point where new data did not provide new insights into our theorizing and we felt that we had rich data speaking to the core parts of our model.  However, as mentioned above, we continue to informally track and observe our participants and others we have met through our interactions with multiple jobholding communities because we do believe the process of authentication is ongoing. 

7.    What are some of the ways you think about or reference your work in non-academic settings?

Brianna Caza: Public interest in the phenomenon of multiple jobholding seems to be increasing. We are finding that popular press and career-focused outlets are frequently talking about side-gigs, side-hustles, and other terms to describe engagement in multiple jobs. We have a couple of articles and podcasts that address some of the ideas in our paper:

When Work Satisfaction Comes from Having Four Jobs

The Hardest Thing about Working in the Gig Economy? Forging a Cohesive Sense of Self

The Inc. Tank, “Finding Satisfaction as a Multiple Jobholder.”

HBR women at work podcast about taking your side gig off the back burner:

How to make room in your worklife for the rest of your self:

8.    Imagine we’re five years in the future. What would you like to see come from this work?

Brianna Caza: Five years in the future we would love for this work to continue to generate interest in the phenomenon of multiple jobholding, and to add clarity to our understanding of the intersection of identity plurality and authenticity. At this point, we’ve seen authors cite this work for its questioning of the idea of “one true self.” We hope that in the future it inspires deeper consideration of the process of authentication in many different contexts.

9.    Surely, people have reached out to you about how your work has inspired them (we’re two of those people). Could you give an example of one that sticks with you?

Brianna Caza: One of the greatest rewards of having completed this work are the relationships it has formed and strengthened. We are so very grateful when we hear from students and faculty whose work relates to and extends the ideas in this paper. In addition, many of our participants have been so pleased with our work because they didn’t know of others like them. When they read our work, they often replied, “I feel like I’ve found my people” or similar. We are very happy to have, in some ways, legitimized their work arrangement and presented it in a positive light. As mentioned above, we found that the families and friends of our participants often viewed their work in a negative light (e.g. “jack of all trades…”).

10.    How do you think organizations could support people who have multiple identities at work?

Brianna Caza: We think that organizations and their managers need to first realize that a worker’s multiple identities are not always a threat to their organizational loyalty. Accumulated evidence from both our study and others’ all show that multiple jobholders can accrue benefits from their “other” identities that are often used to enrich their performance of their organizational roles. Secondly, we think that organizations and their managers can support individuals with complex identities by giving them space and trusting them to get their work done. The more flexible organizations are in offering workers time and autonomy to do their work, the more likely these workers are to have better experiences in managing their multiple identities. 

Interviewer Bios:

Jacob Brown is a doctoral candidate in the Management and Organization department in Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.  His research interests are somewhat disparate, but broadly circulate around understanding how positive values (e.g., authenticity, humility, inclusivity) help people connect – or push them apart.  He is grateful to contribute to the ASQ Blog and hopes to publish a thousand papers or so in ASQ sometime soon.

Kyle S. H. Dobson is a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas at Austin in the Population Research Center who received his doctorate from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Management & Organizations. He studies how we form authentic connections in organizations—from police departments to schools. His expertise is in what is essential to feeling human at work: authenticity, empathy, and relationships.

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