Scripting Professional Identities: How Individuals Make Sense of Contradictory Institutional Logics

Frans Bévort, Roy Suddaby

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article examines how individual accountants subjectively interpret competing logics of professionalism as they transform from practicing accountants to managerial roles and as their organizations transform from traditional professional partnerships to more corporate organizational forms. Based on a longitudinal ethnography of professionals in a Big Four accounting firm we analyse the process by which individual professionals make sense of their new roles and integrate the conflicting demands of professional and managerial logics. We find that individuals are active authors of their own identity scripts. We further observe considerable interpretive variation in how identity scripts are reproduced and enacted. We contribute to the emerging understanding of institutions as ‘inhabited’ by individuals and extend this literature by demonstrating that the institutional work of reinterpreting competing logics is based less of inter-subjective interactions, as prior literature has assumed, and is, instead, based on individual cognition and interpretive subjectivity. We also contribute to research in professional service firms by offering a conceptual model of the individual micro-processes required for successful archetypal change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Professions and Organization
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)17-38
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Subjectivity
  • Sensemaking
  • Institutional logics
  • Professional service firms
  • Identity scripts

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