Me with My Client: Consultants' Relational Identity with Their Clients and its Implications for Their Conduct of Work



Organizational research on individuals’ identity focuses primarily on social identity, i.e., the self-concept they derive from their membership in a group, paying limited attention to relational identity or their self-definition in their role-relationships and its consequent implications for how individuals in these relationships get their work done. In this study, I address this gap by examining the nature of consultants’ relational identity, i.e., their sense of self in their role-relationships with their clients and its implications for their conduct of work. Analysis of 50 in-depth interviews with consultants reveal that their relational identity can be understood by two dimensions: perceived sense of involvement with the relational other and perceived sense of influence over the relational other.  Taken together, they explain four distinct ways consultants manifest their relational identity, namely: comprehensive, defined, associative, and impoverished relational identity. Further, I found that relational identity is associated with the degree of informality in the conduct of work between the two individuals in the role-relationship.
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Dr. Guido Berens