More than simply a source of income, work has become a central source of identity (Beder, 2000; Ciulla, 2000; Clair, McConnell, Bell, Hackbarth & Mathes, 2008; Muirhead, 2004). motivating scholars to engage in a plethora of studies examining the impact of work as a way of defining ourselves, ranging from identification with the organization (Scott, Corman, & Cheney, 1998) to the influence of work on non-work lives (Kirby, Wieland & McBride, 2006). And yet, in such volatile political and economic times, individual's identities as worker are threatened, spurring questions about how to decenter the meaning of work in our lives (Rushkoff, 2011). Despite young people's roles as organizational members, few communication scholars have considered the organizational experiences of youth as a productive area for research and theory (for exception see Myers & Sadaghiani, 2010). I adopt a discursive approach to unpack the multiple ways that discourses, at interpersonal, organizational and social levels, impact and influence youths' identity construction process (Ashcraft & Mumby, 2004; Fairhust & Putnam, 2004). I empirically demonstrate how discourses of work operate simultaneously at multiple levels, interacting and overlapping to position youth as workers. Analysis is based on interviews with youth, ages 12 to 21, participating in a popular national nonprofit organization that serves over four million youth each year. In addition to 49 one-on-one formal interviews, I observed 50 hours of a worker preparation program, which serves as an important context for priming participants and situating our conversations about work. Practically, this project illustrates the influence of organizations to mediate the relationship between discourse and identity. Methodologically, I further clarify discursive analysis as a method by explicitly articulating a concrete framework by which to identify micro-, meso-, and macro-levels of discourse. I also present a qualitative instrument for interviewing youth. Theoretically, this research offers an innovative and necessary expansion to the scope of organizational research by highlighting youth as current and future workers, pointing to the ways they are already engaged in work-life negotiation practices and considering how their micro-discursive practices serve to decenter the organization and make work and family meaningful.
- Apprentices & worker bees: discursive constructions of youth's work identity
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Statement of Responsibility
by Amy K. Way