Managing Professional Identities: Knowledge, Performativity and the "New" Professional

By Mike Dent; Stephen Whitehead | Go to book overview

5

Managing the ‘professional’man

Deborah Kerfoot

Be calm, judicious, rational; groom your personality and control your appearance; make business a profession.

(C. Wright Mills 1956:81)


Introduction

This chapter takes as its object of investigation the linkages between management, masculinity and the concept of professional identity. In the discussion that follows, I explore the pursuit of professional identities by managers through the activities of managerial work. By this, I refer to a form of inquiry that holds the concept of professionalism to be problematic. In asking the question, ‘how useful is an investigation of professional identity?’, this chapter considers what it means to be ‘a professional’ for those for whom the very notion of professional identity has a powerful resonance. My argument centres on exploring the notion of ‘being professional’; of professionalism and of the activities of management as ‘professional work’. This exploration takes as its starting point the idea that these concepts are drawn upon, made and continuously remade in dynamic process by people at specific times and places, in specific circumstances and in specific ways in any given organizational locale.

More than this, the attachment to professional identity and claims to status of a professional knowledge base can be seen not merely as a defence against contemporary threats to managerial knowledge. Such threats might encompass the growth of the service sector and concomitant decline of manufacturing output; shifts in organizational structure and culture requiring ever more ‘commitment’ of lower hierarchy staffs; the rise of information and communications technologies and their relationship to working practices; and the growth of e-commerce, for example. However, the concern to appear, at very least, to be a professional manager goes beyond questions of status and workplace competence. Stating such is to recognize a dimension of the discourse of ‘the professional’ and professional identity as connected to the status of oneself as a ‘proper’ manager. At one and the same time, I want to explore the notion of ‘being a professional’ in terms of the relationship between organizationally reinforced modes of (social) relation and masculinity For, as the chapter argues,

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