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Times are changing: the role of heritage identity on employee identification in a Danish family-owned company

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Purpose: The aim of this article is to explore how the employees of a Danish family-owned company identify with the heritage identity of their company. More specifically, the purpose is to study how the employees interpret certain historical events and values in their efforts to make sense of which heritage identity traits have remained meaningful for them over the passage of time and what these historical events and traits mean to their identification with the company. Design/methodology/approach: The investigation is based on 19 in-depth interviews with employees. A critical discourse analysis approach is adopted to uncover the discursive dynamics appearing across the employees' interpretations of historical events and values. Findings: The study indicates that heritage identity represent a complex and dynamic resource for employees' organizational identification. Therefore, this article argues that it could be a challenge for management to maintain a stable and enduring heritage identity, because the employees' interpretations and consequently their organizational identification is subject to continual revision and under influence by a dynamic and constantly changing social context. Research limitations/implications: The findings of this study is limited to the specific context of one company. Further research could investigate the same topics when interviewing employees across the national borders of a global family company in times of change. Practical implications: Management need to identify whether different generations of employees develop a strong or weak identification with certain heritage identity traits and whether there are competing or compatible targets of heritage identification among these generations. Originality/value: This study illuminates the potential challenges related to the maintenance and preservation of heritage identity in a company with roots to a strong founding family, which operates in a constantly changing environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Communications
Volume25
Issue3
Pages (from-to)477-494
Number of pages18
ISSN1356-3289
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Critical discourse analysis, Employee interpretations, Founding values, Heritage identity

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