This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Grounded Theory of Employed Professional Role Identity: One Pathway to Understanding Professional-Organizational Relationships




Stevens, Gregory

Type of Degree





An increasing amount of research has recently been devoted to the complex dynamics surrounding employed professionals, particularly from the standpoint of understanding the ways in which they identify with their roles in the workplace (e.g., as professionals versus organizational members or employees). Unfortunately, such research has typically been limited in terms of its ability to understand the full complexity of what it means to be an employed professional and how that meaning drives professional-organizational relationships. The current study addresses these gaps in the literature by providing a grounded theory of employed professional role identity, based on semi-structured interviews with 23 employed physicians working within a primary care network owned by a large healthcare system. Through these interviews and other sources of qualitative data (e.g., observations, archival documents), the employed professional role identity emerged as: a better understanding of the professional role in the workplace; the influence of that professional role in defining what it means to be employed; and finally, what that employment means for subsequent professional-organizational role relationships. Revealed through each of these components, the dominant source of professional-organizational interaction surrounds the facilitation of professional work, stemming directly from the professional role in the context of employment within an organization. More peripherally, yet the focus of much prior research, the role of the professional as a participant in the organization (e.g., supporting an organizational agenda or change, participating in committees and meetings) is much less tied to the meaning of the employed professional role identity. The theoretical and practical implications of these potential pathways are discussed.