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Collaboration, identity and the pursuit of 'philosophical neutrality'

Zhang, Y. and McInnes, P.A. and Keenan, P. (2009) Collaboration, identity and the pursuit of 'philosophical neutrality'. In: British Academy of Management, Joint Symposium between Identity and Inter-Organizational Relations Tracks, 2009-09-15.

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Abstract

Issue of professional identity are regarded as a particularly powerful source of identity that relates the individual to bodies of knowledge that shape their subjectivity and by extension conduct (Hodgson, 2002; Knights, 1992). Yet consideration of their influence upon processes of common identity construction within collaborative settings has been extremely limited. Our research question, therefore, concerns the influence of professional identity upon the process of collective identity formation. In order to address this question we draw upon a longitudinal study of a collaboration between two public sector organizations, NHS Greater Glasgow (NHSGG) and Glasgow City Council (GCC), responsible for delivering addiction services in Glasgow. From the outset it was recognised by management that the combination of different professional groups, social workers and nurses, from their respective agencies might generate friction. 'Philosphical neutrality' was therefore something they sought to establish throughout. Our findings describe the stages that were observed over the course of a year as the various professional groupings sought initially to work apart before tentatively coming together and then finally fragmenting while preserving elements of their professional identity. They also make comment upon where, in terms of public/private constructions of the situation, and in what way, in terms of speech style, these patterns were evident. This highlights the overarching influence of professional identity upon the language used, the norms of behaviour and the evaluative frame through which the actions of the other were viewed.