The constructed authentic self at work and other acts of fiction. A narrative approach

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This work interrogates the changing meaning of employee authenticity and argues that it has become an aesthetic and paradoxical construct with implications for the politics of work. Using a unique arts-based narrative method this work aims to better understand the human experience of a constructed self within organisations – in this way the contribution is both to the field and methodological. This original arts-based approach involved the creation of two children’s novels developed as thought experiments to investigate the subjective experience of a constructed self at work. The selection of this method brought together my field of study and drew on my separate experience as a professional children’s author. Using a Ricoeurian lens, Narrative Identity Theory is then used to examine the intersection of the constructed self and the implications on that self at work. This work finds that the current definitions of authenticity within organisational studies are narrow and lack the ability to account for a multiple of selves that are ultimately authentic in their own execution and yet contradictory. It also concludes that the future of authenticity is in the broadening of this definition to the contradictions of self and the continuity of a conflicted self which relies on dismantling and demystifying of authenticity as a tool for organisational homogeneity. This research is timely and required given the unchecked rise in authenticity as a desirable and cultivated employee attribute. It sits within a landscape of overwhelmingly positive literature which endorses authenticity as a benefit and one that offers the employee a liberation from the binds of conventional management practices. Despite this, an emerging critical view suggests authenticity may instead be a Trojan horse designed to exert control and influence over the employee in personal and insidious ways. Current gaps in the literature have been identified in this critical space as well as gaps in the methods used to research it. This work aims to address both those gaps and demonstrate new and innovative ways of expanding ideas around the self at work. It looks at what we can glean from the proliferation of authenticity and finds that a future for authenticity at work may exist if the notion of what it means to be authentic is readdressed and the impact of constructing authentic selves is dismantled in its current form.
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