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Journal Article

Learning to become manager: The identity work of first-time managers by Pernilla Bolander, Ingalill Holmberg and Elisabeth Fellbom

Taking a managerial position involves not only taking on managerial tasks and responsibilities but also developing an identity as manager. Recent work on manager learning thus proposes that identity work is a significant part of learning to become manager. This work has, however, rarely focused on first-time managers and, despite the emphasis on process, has rarely examined identity work over time. Against this background, we present a longitudinal study of six newly appointed managers. Adopting a Ricoeurian perspective, we construct “small stories” to explore how they made sense of themselves and how to relate to others in light of new experiences in their everyday lives as nascent managers. The study provides insight into the process through which they were learning to become managers. Specifically, it highlights how the manager’s identity work oscillated over time by pointing to the ongoing dialectic between continuity and change, progress and stand-still, knowing and not-knowing, and excitement and despair.

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