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ORGANISATIONAL DECLINE AND TURNAROUND代寫

ORGANISATIONAL IDENTITY DISSONANCE IN

S. Jeyavelu
This paper presents a model integrating organisational identity dissonance, organisational decline and
organizational turnaround. It specifes three sources of organisational identity dissonance – decline, which is
further sub-divided into severity, pace and period; change in organisational identity attributes due to internal or
external causes of organisational decline; and identity attributes as cause of decline. Three types of turnaround
strategies are possible based on the congruency of turnaround actions with organisational identity - identity
congruent, identity conficting and identity transforming turnaround strategies. The turnaround strategies
are contingent on the level and antecedents of dissonance. When decline is caused by identity characteristics,
identity conficting turnaround strategy leading to identity change leads to performance improvement,
otherwise it aggravates the dissonance and decline increasing the risk of failure. Identity congruent turnaround
strategy is appropriate for decline caused by external events. Identity transforming turnaround strategy is
most appropriate when the decline is caused by the combination of internal organisational identity attributes
as well as external events. It is also a strategic choice independent of the turnaround context. The paper
concludes with the implications for theory and practice and gives directions for future research.
Key Words:  Organisational Identity, Identity Dissonance, Organisational Decline, Turnaround
INTRODUCTION
Organisational decline, turnaround and failure
remains a major concern of both researchers and
practitioners across the world due to unexpected
environmental events that threaten economic viability
of organisations even though the feld has progressed
much in the last three decades (Ahlstrom and Bruton,
2004; Khandwalla, 2001; Maheshwari, 2000; Mellahi
and Wilkinson, 2004; Wilkinson and Mellahi, 2005).
Organisational  decline  and  turnaround  has
implications  across  individual,  group,  inter-group,
collective, organisational, inter-organisational, industry
and economy levels (Khandwalla, 2001; Mellahi and
Wilkinson, 2004). One of the most critical organisational
consequences of decline is the stress induced across the
organisation (Whetten, 1980). Stress is also induced
in anticipation of organisational response  to decline
which might prove costly to individuals and specifc
groups in the organisation and also as a consequence
of turnaround actions. Understanding the dynamics of
cognitive distress associated with decline and turnaround
has strong implications for both theory and practice of
turnaround management (Cameron, Whetten and Kim,
1987; Cameron  and  Zammuto,  1983; Mellahi  and
Wilkinson, 2004; Whetten, 1980).
Organisational  identity  is a powerful, pervasive,
substantive,  integrative  and  deeper  level  construct
linked to behaviour in organisations extensively. Albert,
Ashforth and Dutton (2000) state that organisational
identity is one of the root constructs in organisational
phenomena,  the  subtext  of  many  organisational
behaviours, satisfes the need for the situated sense of an
entity, and has high integrative and generative capacity
theoretically. Organisational identity is the sum total of
answers to the question ‘who are we?’; or the shared
beliefs, collective mental framework, cognitive map
or collective self refective narratives of  the central, VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
34  l  Jeyavelu
enduring and distinctive (CED) characteristics of the
organisation (Albert and Whetten, 1985; Chreim, 2005;
Gioia, 1998; Gioia, Schultz and Corley, 2000; Hatch and
Schultz, 2002; Ravasi and Schultz, 2006; Whetten, 2006;
Whetten and Godfrey, 1998).
One of  the key  issues  in organisational  identity
dynamics is the organisational member experience of
cognitive distress or organisational identity dissonance
due  to  a perceived  threat  to organisational  identity
(Elsbach and Kramer, 1996). It is experienced whenever
members  perceive  an  inconsistency  between  their
collective self defnitions and the image held by external
stakeholders, when organisational actions are perceived to
be inconsistent with the identity, when there is a temporal
discontinuity in the identity attributes and when there
is a sudden loss of social referents (such as industry,
comparable organisations and ownership) (Dutton and
Dukerich, 1991; Elsbach and Kramer, 1996; Corley and
Gioia, 2004).
Organisational decline is associated with collective
self  reflection  in  terms  of  ‘what  is  our  purpose  of
existence?’, ‘what business are we in?’ and ‘why do we
do what we do?’ indirectly approaching the organisational
identity question ‘who are we?’ and intense emotions due
to uncertainty, conficting demands and low collective self
esteem (Arogyaswamy, Barker and Yasai-Ardekani, 1995;
Brown and Starkey, 2000; Khandwalla, 1992 and 2001;
Maheswari and Ahlstrom, 2004; Mellahi and Wilkinson,
2004; Pearce and Robbins, 1993). Turnaround includes
substantial change  in organisational characteristics,
strategic change, change in top management, substantial
change in membership, operational changes for effciency,
and asset reconfguration many of which are related to
an organisation’s self-defnitional characteristics (Albert
and Whetten, 1985; Khandwalla, 2001; Whetten, 2006).
Since emotions run high during decline and turnaround,
organisational identity discourse might be observed as it
is concomitant to profound organisational experiences
(Whetten, 2006).
Organisational decline is a unique context where
an  organisation’s  effectiveness  is  compromised,
stakeholder support is lost or reduced, slack resources
are exhausted, and the existence is under threat and hence
creating an identity threat. Turnaround is also likely to
threaten organisational identity due to changes in CED
characteristics or mismatch between organisational
identity and turnaround actions. Hence there is a perceived
threat to an organisation’s identity during decline and
turnaround which leads to an experience of organisational
identity dissonance. Past  research  in organisational
identity  has  covered  some  aspects  of  performance
decline and its infuence on organisational identity and
organisational members  (Albert and Whetten, 1985;
Whetten and Godfrey, 1998; Glynn, 2000). However the
specifc case of organisational identity dissonance in the
context of decline and turnaround has not been theorised
before. This paper explores the organisational identity
dynamics during decline and turnaround and develops a
model integrating antecedents of decline, organisational
identity dissonance and turnaround strategies.
Organisational Decline and Turnaround
Organisational decline is the reduction in fnancial and
human resources and/or negative economic performance
of an organisation (Arogyaswamy, Barker and Yasai-
Ardekani, 1995; Chowdhury, 2002; Robbins and Pearce,
1992). There  is a consensus among  researchers  that
organisational decline may be due to internal or external
causes, inability to adapt to changing environment, genuine
managerial mistakes, subjective and biased managerial
decisions, conficting demands from stakeholders, inertia
to change and adapt from excessive bureaucratisation,
ageing and later stage in life cycle of the organisation,
or  prominence  of  social  objectives  over  financial
objectives (Arogyaswamy, Barker and Yasai-Ardekani,
1995; Chowdhury, 2002; Khandwalla, 1983, 1991, 1992
and 2001; Maheswari, 2000; Mellahi and Wilkinson,
2004; Robbins and Pearce, 1992). Key perspectives
in organisational decline,  turnaround and failure are
organisation-environment  fit,  resource dependence,
cognitive stress and responses, organisational ecology,
crisis management, threat–rigidity effect, and strategic/
managerial choices (Cameron, Kim and Whetten, 1987;
Child, 1972; Khandwalla, 1992 and 2001; Mellahi and
Wilkinson, 2004; Sheppard and Chowdhury, 2005).
Key dimensions of decline  are  the  severity of
decline, pace or speed of decline and  the period of
decline (D’Aveni, 1989; Maheshwari and Ahlstrom,
2004; Robbins and Pearce, 1992). Moderate decline
would be, when only one of decline in the proftability,
revenues or market share is observed without a threat of
closure. When all three are observed simultaneously and
at higher levels and bankruptcy or closure is imminent,
it is severe decline. The period of decline is also critical,
if the decline had set in the immediate past organisation
diverts all resources to turnaround and stakeholders
support actively  the responses. If  the decline drags
on for a long period, apathy sets in the organisation
where by the decline is seemingly ignored internally
and internal stakeholders become indifferent. Extended VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround  l  35
collapses leading to sudden bankruptcy. Gradual decline
is characterised by slow decline followed by bankruptcy.
Lingering decline is observed when organisations are
declining at a slow pace or gradually linger on without
actually becoming bankrupt. Table 1 summarises the
signifcant contributions in the feld of organisational
decline and turnaround.
periods of sickness leads to exhaustion of resources,
internal and external stakeholder hostility, questions
of legitimacy of responses, indiscipline, and obsolesce
of technology, systems and processes (Maheshwari and
Ahlstrom, 2004). D’Aveni (1989) found that decline
can vary in the speed/pace at which it sets in. Sudden
decline is observed when the organisation suddenly
Table 1:  Signifcant Contributions in Organisational Decline and Turnaround
Perspective Author(s) Contributions
Contingency in
Turnaround
Arogyaswamy,  Barker  and  Yasai-
Ardekani (1995)
Two stage contingent model
–   Stages- decline stemming stage and recovery stage
–   Contingencies a. Decline stemming strategies are contingent on severity
of decline and availability of slack resources, b. Stakeholder support,
increase  in  effciency,  stabilisation  of  internal  climate  and  decision
processes are created by decline stemming strategies, and c. Recovery
strategies are contingent on causes of decline and competitive position
Contingency in
Turnaround
Pearce and Robbins (1993) Two stage contingent process model
–   Nature, extent and pace of  turnaround depends on severity causality
(internal and external)
–   Turnaround happens in retrenchment and recovery stages
–   Entrepreneurial response is appropriate for external causes of decline
and effciency responses for internal causes
Organisational
Decline
Cameron and Zammuto (1983) Decline types and managerial strategies
–   Four types of decline: erosion, contraction, dissolution and collapse
–   Tactics – enactive, reactive, proactive and experimental
–   Strategies – Domain creation, domain defense or consolidation, domain
offensive and domain substitution
Organisational
Decline
D’Aveni (1989) Pace of decline
–   Sudden decline, gradual decline and lingering decline
Organisational
Decline
Weitzel and Jonsson (1989) Stages of decline and responses
–   Blinded-Good information
– Inaction-prompt action
– Faulty action-corrective action
– Crisis-effective reorganisation
– Dissolution
Strategic Choice Khandwalla (1991) Turnaround Types as Choices
– Surgical vs. non surgical turnarounds
–   Retrenchment as a choice rather than forced contingency
–   Third world perspective of turnaround
Strategic Choice Maheswari and Ahlstrom (2004) Action Choice Model
–    Action choice model of turnaround of State Owned Enterprise
–   Importance of internal leader in turnaround of SOE well into decline
–    Action  choices  in  terms  of  leadership,  strategic  and  operational
strategies
–   Hostility of internal and external stakeholders and its management
–   Restoration of legitimacy under prolonged decline
Top Management
Infuence
Barker and Barr (2002)
Barker and Patterson (1996)
Barker, Patterson and Mueller (2001)
  Top Management Team Infuence in Turnaround
–   Top management team tenure and causal attributions of decline
–   Causes and consequences of top management replacement
–   Strategic change and manager attributionsVISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
36  l  Jeyavelu
Weitzel and Jonsson (1989) proposed a fve stage
theory  of  decline. The  five  stages  and  appropriate
managerial action in each are – blinded stage and good
information; inaction stage and prompt action; faulty
action  stage  and  corrective  action;  crisis  stage  and
effective  reorientation; and fnally dissolution stage
where no action  is possible. Researchers have been
fascinated by stage models in turnaround also. Bibeault
(1982) proposed fve stages in organisational turnaround
–  top management  change,  evaluation,  emergency,
stabilisation and re-posturing/return to normal growth.
Manimala (1991) empirically found  three additional
stages in turnaround - arresting sickness, reorienting
and institutionalisation and growth. Chowdhury (2002)
identifed  four stages – decline,  response  initiation,
transition and outcome. These four stages show empirical
support in both turned around and failed organisations
(Chowdhury, 2002; Sheppard and Chowdhury, 2005).
The strategies followed by the organisations’ attempt
to turnaround are another area with substantial empirical
research. Schendel, Patton and Riggs (1976) identifed two
distinct strategies followed by turnaround organisations –
operational and strategic turnaround strategies. Hambrick
and Schecter (1983) observed three generic strategies
during turnaround - revenue generating, product-market
refocusing, asset reduction and cost cutting turnaround
strategies.  
Researchers also found a contingent relationship
between causes of decline and turnaround strategies.
Schendel, Patton and Riggs (1976) observed that
successful turnaround organisations follow operational
strategies for operational causes of decline and strategic
responses for strategic causes of decline. Arogyaswamy,
Barker and Yasai-Ardekani (1995) proposed a two stage
contingency model. Turnaround happens in two stages –
decline stemming stage and recovery stage. Decline leads
to decrease in stakeholder support, reduced effciency,
and dysfunctional internal climate. The decline stemming
stage counters these and is dependent on the severity of
decline and availability of slack resources. Once these
decline consequences are stabilised, recovery sets in. In the
recovery stage the causes of decline and frm competitive
position are addressed by the recovery strategies. Pearce
and Robbins  (1993) propose a  two stage contingent
process model. Turnaround proceeds in retrenchment
and recovery stages. Retrenchment phase involves cost
reduction and asset reduction to attain stability. In the
recovery stage entrepreneurial strategies are appropriate
for external causes and effciency strategies for internal
causes. Khandwalla (1983) found that the turnaround
strategy depends on the level of capacity utilisation,
market share, depth of decline and managerial diagnosis
of the situation. The emerging consensus seems to be
the  contingency between  the  causes of decline  and
turnaround strategies and consequences of decline and
decline stemming/stabilisation strategies.
Another  question  turnaround  researchers  have
been pursuing  is  ‘what  are  the  actions  that  lead  to
Turnaround in
Western and
Bruton, Ahlstrom and Wan (2001) Comparative  Study  of  western  and  the  Eastern  Countries  eastern
turnaround
–   differences due to the culture and the business environment
–   differences  in  terms  of  recognition  of  the  problem,  retrenchment, 
matching the solution to the cause of decline, replacement of CEO and
speed of turnaround
Turnaround
Stages
Bibeault (1982) –   Five  stage model:  top management  change,  evaluation,  emergency,
stabilisation and re-posturing/return to normal growth
Turnaround
Stages
Chowdhury (2002) Four stages
–   decline, response initiation, transition, outcome
Turnaround
Stages
Manimala (1991) Added three stages to Bibeault
–   arresting sickness, reorienting, and institutionalisation and growth
Turnaround
Strategies
Hambrick and Schecter (1983) Three Strategy Model
–   revenue  generating,  product-market  refocusing,  asset  reduction  and
cost cutting turnaround strategies
Turnaround
Strategies
Schendel, Patton and Riggs 1976 Two Strategy Model
–   strategic and operational turnaround strategies
Turnaround
Types
Khandwalla (1992 and 2001) Turnaround Types and their context
–   types based on developed vs. developing country context
–   types based on manufacturing vs. service context
–   types based on organisational transformationVISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround  l  37
turnaround?’ Khandwalla (1992 and 2001) identifed
numerous turnaround actions and classifed them into
ten themes –managerial overhaul, asset-cost surgery,
tighter controls and fnancial mending, strategic shift,
product market refocusing, sales push, transformational
changes, restructuring and empowerment, actions for
operating excellence, and cost  shedding  (excluding
mass layoffs). They were further classifed into hard and
soft actions; and internally effciency focused actions
and  externally  focused  actions. Khandwalla  (1991,
1992 and 2001) also identifed many turnaround types.
He developed empirical turnaround typologies in the
context of western and developing country turnarounds,
manufacturing  and  service  turnarounds  and  use  of
downsizing. Two major types, surgical turnarounds and
non surgical turnarounds based on use of downsizing
were identifed. Transformational turnaround types were
also identifed which were based on the extent of change
and transformation in organisational characteristics.
Organisational Identity, Threat and Dissonance
Organisational  identity  is  the  central  enduring  and
distinctive  (CED) characteristics of an organisation
(Whetten, 2006). It is the shared beliefs held by the members
or the cognitive map held collectively or collective self
narratives of CED characteristics (Albert and Whetten,
1985; Chreim, 2005; Fiol, 2002; Corley, Harquail, Pratt,
Glynn, Fiol, and Hatch, 2006). Organisational identity
can also be viewed as the institutionalised view of the
CED characteristics of the organisation as the social actor
(Whetten and Mackey, 2002).
Organisational identity is the collective self defnitional
construct that organisational members refer to for long term
high impact decisions, experienced collectively, inferred
or triggered under profound experience (Whetten, 2006).
It is the sum total of collective answers to the question
‘who  are we?’  or  ‘who  are we  as  an  organisation?’
(Albert and Whetten, 1985; Gioia, 1998; Whetten, 2006).
It consists of  three conceptual domains – defnitional
(CED characteristics), ideational (answers to ‘who are
we’ question) and phenomenological (i.e. observation
of identity related discourse concomitant with profound
experience) domains that delineate organisational identity
field  (Whetten,  2006). Table  2  summarises  the  key
contributions in organisational identity literature.
Organisations  can have more  than one  identity
existing simultaneously at the same time, even though
they may not be obvious in day to day living (Albert
and Whetten, 1985; Pratt and Foreman, 2000). Different
groups within an organisation like managers across levels
of hierarchy, employees belonging to different professional
backgrounds, and employees involved in differing tasks
have different conception of their organisation’s identity
(Corley and Gioia, 2004; Glynn, 2000). 
When an organisation’s identity is threatened, its
members experience a cognitive dissonance or identity
dissonance which directs managerial response (Dutton
and Dukerich,  1991;  Elsbach  and Kramer,  1996).
Organisational members experience a  threat  to  their
organisation’s identity under the following conditions
– i) The organisational strategic actions are incongruent
with identity attributes, ii) Sudden loss of social referents
such as corporate group affliation, withdrawal from an
industry/market, or loss of brand/name, iii) Temporal
discontinuity in the CED characteristics, iv) Incongruence
between the organisational identity and image held by
external stakeholders, v) Loss of an identity symbol, such
as founder or key person who has shaped the identity
substantially, vi) Identity ambiguity and lack of clarity
on identity attributes, vii) Value of CED attributes is
questioned,  viii) Perceived  organisational  status  is
threatened, ix) Construed external image is challenged
(Corley and Gioia, 2004; Dutton and Dukerich, 1991;
Elsbach and Kramer, 1996).
Organisational  identity change can occur under
the  following  conditions  –  (i) Loss  of  an  identity
sustaining element, (ii) In a young organisation when
founder leaves, (iii) When the organisation’s purpose
of existence  is achieved,  (iv) During  rapid growth,  
(v)  Change  in  collective  status  (hostile  takeover,
acquisition, divestiture), (vi) Substantial retrenchment,
(vii)  Drastic change in membership, (viii) Under crisis
identity shifts in favour of the group that can solve the
crisis, (ix) Environmental complexity, (x) Organisational
success, and xi) Conscious efforts by top management to
change identity through articulation of a desired identity
and shaping meaning making processes  (Albert and
Whetten, 1985; Hatch and Schultz, 2002; Ravasi and
Schultz, 2006; Whetten, 2006).
Researchers  have  pointed  to  the  need  for  both
continuity and change in identity, arguing that stability
in organisations can be achieved by adopting intangible
or abstract identity attributes that allow for a variety of
applications as the environment changes (Ashforth and
Mael, 1996; Gustafson and Reger, 1995). Organisational
identity can  remain enduring  (labels and associated
meanings remain same over time) or continuing (labels
remain the same and meanings may be reinterpreted)
(Gioia, Schultz and Corley, 2000). VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
38  l  Jeyavelu
Table 2:  Organisational Identity Threats, Dissonance and Change
Authors  Contributions
Albert and
Whetten
(1985)
– Defned organisational identity as members’ claims of central character, distinctiveness and continuity
– Multiple organisational identities
–   Simultaneous presence of conficting identities in equilibrium i.e. hybrid identities, e.g.  normative and utilitarian
identities
–   Holographic duality (each internal unit exhibits characteristics of the whole) and ideographic duality (each unit
exhibits only one identity)
–   Retrenchment and other strategic change brings to surface latent identity duality
Whetten
(2006)
– Redefned organisational identity as central, enduring and distinctive (CED) characteristics
–   Organisational identity has three components – ‘the ideational component  equated organisational identity with
members’ shared beliefs regarding the question “who are we as an organisation?”; the defnitional component
proposed  a  specifc  conceptual  domain  for  organisational  identity,  characterised  as  the CED  features  of  an
organisation; and fnally,  the phenomenological component posited  that  identity-related discourse   was most
likely to be observed in conjunction with profound organisational experiences’. (pp.220).
Ravasi and
Schultz (2006)
–   Stages of response to external identity threats-construing external images, refecting on cultural practices and
artifacts, projecting desired images and embedding claims in organisational culture
–   Culture acts as  ‘context  for sense making’ under external  identity  threats and as  ‘platform  for sense giving,
helping members maintain a sense of continuity amid formal or substantive changes’ i.e. linking revised/new
claims that refect ‘aspirations of organisational leaders’ to culture. (pp.454)
–   External images and culture play a signifcant role in organisational responses to identity threats.
Corley,
Harquail, Pratt,
Glynn, Fiol
and Hatch
(2006)
–   Explicating the nomological net, and ontological and epistemological assumptions that embeds organisational
identity
– Question of identity as a metaphor versus real and real as essence or social construction
–   Concept of identity centrality as depth, shared, structural and issues of core versus periphery and multiple and
hybrid identities
–   Organisational identity change can be studied by questioning on the i. Nature of change, ii. Frequency of change,
iii. Speed of change, iv. Origin  of change, and v. Motor of change
Elsbach and
Kramer (1996)
–   Under high identity threat and low legitimacy threat, organisational members use identity affrmation and sense
making tactics
–   Two types of sense making tactics, selective self categorisation highlighting alternative i. Identity attributes and
ii. Comparison groups
–   Identity dissonance is a kind of ‘cognitive dissonance related to the disparity or inconsistency between members’
perception of their organisation’s identity and the identity attributed to it[externally].’(pp.453-4) 
–   Higher levels of identity dissonance is experienced under higher levels of perceived identity threats and also use
of higher levels of selective self categorisations
Dutton and
Dukerich
(1991)
–   ‘[O]rganisational identity and image and their consistency or inconsistency help to explain when, where and how
individuals become motivated to push for or against organisational initiatives’. (pp.550)
–   Organisational identity constrains issue interpretations, emotions and actions
–   Simultaneously, the external image serves to evaluate the issue, interpret it and justify organisational responses
–   ‘[T]he pattern of action on issues can therefore reinforce or, potentially, transform the organisation’s identity and
image through individual’s sense making efforts, and the process of adaptation continues’. (pp.543)
–   Discrepancy between external  image and  identity attributes, and  inconsistency between actions and  identity
induces high emotionality, the importance given to the issue and choices of action
Corley and
Gioia (2004)
–   Identity  ambiguity  is  triggered by  change  in  social  referents,  temporal  identity discrepancies and construed
external image discrepancies
– Identity ambiguity could be in terms of label confusion or meaning void
– Change overload and identity tensions create a sense giving imperative
– Identity ambiguity and sense giving imperative create a context for change
– Leaders respond by refning desired future image, increased branding efforts and modeling behaviour
Golden-Biddle
and Rao (1997)
– Infuence of organisational identity on social construction of board member roles
–   ‘Conficts  of  commitment’  arise  when  board  members  are  faced  with  conficting  identities  (especially  in
holographic hybrid identity)
–   Board member role behaviour contradictory to the role expectations surface latent identities and forces them to
uphold one identity over another
–   Internally generated identity threats lead to coalition formation (of board members) and cooperation of board
members  and  top managers  for  repairing  identity  and  the  actions  are  likely  to be different  for  internal  and
external audiencesVISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround  l  39
An organisation’s conception of its CED attributes
i.e. organisational identity, the attributes that it projects
to  external  stakeholders  i.e.  projected  image,  the
organisational members perception of the image held
by external stakeholders i.e. construed external image,
the aspirations of the employees and managers of the
CED attributes in future i.e. desired identity, the expected
change in the image held by stakeholders i.e. desired
image, the judgments of the external stakeholders of an
organisation and their feedback on the organisation’s
actions and achievements i.e. reputation are all closely
inter related (Gioia, Schultz and Corley, 2000; Whetten
and MacKey, 2002).
Organisations interpret strategic issues by referring to
organisational identity and the consequent emotions and
action choices also depend on the identity characteristics
(Glynn, 2000; Dutton and Dukerich, 1991). 
Organisational Identity Dissonance in 
Decline and Turnaround
Organisational decline for this model is defned as the
reduction in economic performance. The reduction in
economic performance could be in terms of negative
proftability i.e. losses; and/or negative growth in revenues
and market share.
An organisation in decline is a non normal situation.
It indicates an inability to achieve organisational goals
and objectives and satisfy stakeholder expectations. If
the decline continues the organisation can fail or become
bankrupt due  to exodus of personnel, exhaustion of
organisational resources and stakeholder apathy and
hostility (Maheshwari and Ahlstrom 2004; Mellahi and
Wilkinson, 2004; Sheppard and Chowdhury, 2005). The
organisation also faces higher risk of acquisition from
competitors. This situation creates a threat of existence.
In  special  contexts  such  as  ambiguous,  diverse,  or
conficting stakeholder expectations, assured stakeholder
support, assured fow of resources, or minimal or very
low probability of death or failure, organisations under
decline may not experience the threat of existence and is
not applicable to this model.
In general, under  the  threat of  imminent death,
organisational  members  experience  severe  stress
as  it  is human nature  to expect continuity of self or
the organisation. The nature of stress  is  in  terms of
questioning of purpose of the organisation’s existence,
the organisational goals and objectives, and their linkages
to identity characteristics. Members also question their
identifcation with the organisation. The questions are
in terms of ‘why do we exist as an organisation?’, ‘what
are our goals and objectives?’ and ‘what and why did I
Figure 1: Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround
Organisational
Identity
Dissonance
Identity Congruent
Turnaround Strategies
Identity
Transforming
Turnaround Strategies
Internal Causes of Decline
– Non CED Characteristic(s)VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
40  l  Jeyavelu
induces a shock and the level of OID is high. In the
case of moderate, gradual and short duration of decline
organisational members may not experience a threat to
the collective self defnitions and hence the organisational
identity dissonance. If the sudden and severe decline is
experienced for a long duration then members resorts to
psychological defenses to reduce the dissonance.
Following  propositions  arise  from  the  above
discussion:
P1:  Increase in organisational identity dissonance
would be observed with increase in severity or
increase in pace of decline.
P2: Initially an increase followed by a decrease in
the organisational identity dissonance will be
observed with increase in the duration or time
period of decline.
P3: Faster the onset of relatively severe decline,
higher the organisational identity dissonance.
P4: Longer the duration and more severe the decline,
lower the organisational identity dissonance.
P5: Longer  the duration and  sudden and  severe
the decline, lower the organisational identity
dissonance.
The cause of decline can be internal or external to
the organisation. Internal causes of decline can be either
CED characteristics or non CED characteristics. If the
decline is caused by any CED attribute then the identity
dissonance is imminent. CED attributes are essentially
those  that  perpetuate  the  organisation’s  existence.
When the organisation’s existence is threatened by its
very essence then members would experience extreme
organisational identity dissonance. Any change in identity
attributes is perceived as identity threat by organisational
members and will induce identity dissonance. If decline is
caused by non CED characteristics of the organisation but
there is a change in the CED characteristics OID would
be experienced. Otherwise the internal causes of decline
do not infuence the dissonance.
If the cause of decline is external to the organisation
but leads to a change in CED characteristics then again
OID is experienced. Ineffcient and obsolete technology,
organisational structure, systems and processes; a specifc
product,  brand  or  a market; managerial  decisions;
investments in infrastructure and so on can be part of
CED attributes. For example an organisation might
pride itself in the technology of its product and hold it
as central, enduring and distinctive which might be a
identify within this organisation?’ These questions are self
refective about the nature of collective self defnitions
and indicate a perception of threat to the organisational
identity.  Thus the threat of existence is perceived as an
organisational identity threat. When an organisation’s
members perceive a threat to their collective identity, it
raises self doubts about the collective and lowers collective
self esteem, inducing a certain type of cognitive distress
called organisational identity dissonance (OID). 
Organisational decline consists of three dimensions
– the severity of the decline, the speed of the decline,
the period of state of decline. The severity of decline
is the depth of sickness or the extent of reduction in
economic performance and can be severe, moderate or
mild. Mild sickness can be transient and temporary and
not necessarily decline and not considered in the model.
Decline can vary in terms of the speed at which it sets
in. Decline can be sudden, gradual or lingering. When
the change in performance from positive to negative is
in a short span of time it is called as sudden decline, if
there is relatively longer time period between positive
performance  to negative performance  it  is moderate
decline  and  lingering  decline  when  the  negative
performance takes a long time to set in. Decline can also
vary in the time period for which the organisation has
been experiencing it. Sometimes organisations stay in
the state of decline for a long time i.e prolonged decline,
without getting out of decline or degrading further to
failure. The three dimensions can be explained in terms
of a plot of performance over the time. The absolute
change or the negative value of performance is severity
of decline, the slope of the curve is the pace of decline
and the absolute time after performance turns negative
is the period of decline.
The level of members’ experience of OID depends
on  the severity, pace and duration of decline. When
the decline  is more severe,  the  threat  to existence  is
higher, leading to higher experience of identity threat
and corresponding higher experience of OID. When
the decline sets in gradually there is time for members
to resort to psychological defense mechanisms. Hence
increase in speed of decline also increases experience of
OID. Extended periods of decline would lead to triggering
of psychological defense coping mechanisms and the
OID would increase with time initially and reduce with
further prolongation of decline.
The severity and pace of decline combine together
and determine  the  level of experience of OID. The
decline period interacts with these two and creates a
complex effect on OID. Severe and  sudden decline VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround  l  41
cause of the decline. Technology is a key dimension of
Apple’s identity and at the same time it was one of the
causes of its declining performance in 1990s. Some of the
external causes of decline could be in terms of disruptive
technologies, socio economic political changes, changes
in stakeholder expectations, aggressive competition,
substitutes,  and  shrinking markets. These  external
causes could also change a CED attribute. If an identity
attribute is in relation to the environment, customers, or
competitors any change in these would lead to a change
in the organisation’s identity.
P6: Any change in CED characteristics will induce
organisational identity dissonance.
P7: Perception of CED characteristic(s) as a cause
of decline will induce organisational identity
dissonance.
Depth of  sickness and availability of  resources
determine whether an organisation fails or not. If an
organisation has abundant internal resources, or assured
external resources it can withstand decline for a long
time without failing.
P8:  Increase in decline will lead to failure mediated/
moderated  by  the  availability  of  resources
(internal or external).
P9: Deeper the sickness, lower the availability of
internal slack resources and lower the availability
of external resources, higher the risk of failure.
Turnaround actions are vast and strategic choices to
the top management. Some of the themes are contingent,
for example it is more appropriate to go for operational
efficiency  actions when  decline  is  due  to  internal
operational causes and strategic change or entrepreneurial
actions when decline  is due  to drastic change  in an
environment. The turnaround strategies can be of three
types based on congruency between turnaround actions
with organisational  identity attributes. The  strategy
is called identity congruent turnaround strategy if the
strategy and its constituent actions are in line with the
organisational identity and identity conficting turnaround
strategy if they are in confict. If the turnaround strategy
targets a transformation of identity through meaning
making  then  it  is  identity  transforming  turnaround
strategy.
When organisational members experience identity
dissonance the frst reaction is to respond within the
boundaries of CED characteristics. Actions  that are
congruent with identity pacify OID. When the turnaround
actions are in confict with identity characteristics then
OID will be reinforced. Such conficting  turnaround
strategies can further add to decline and accelerate the
path to death and failure. In the context of dissonance, top
management can shape the meaning making processes and
bring about a change in the identity through articulation of
desired identity, reinterpreting the identity labels in view
of the changed decline context, or facilitating the process
of dis-identifcation and re-identifcation.
If CED characteristic is a cause of decline or there
is a change in CED characteristics then the turnaround
actions  should  address  these  first. The  turnaround
strategy essentially will be in confict with the identity.
When  meaning  making  processes  are  facilitated
by  top management  and  organisational  identity  is
changed, conficting strategy can lead to performance
improvement, else decline and dissonance are further
accelerated. When the turnaround actions are congruent
with the organisational identity then it is likely to lead to
improvement in performance through greater commitment
and effort to turnaround efforts. This is most appropriate
when the cause of decline is external and there is no added
identity threat internally.
When  the  decline  is  caused  by  both  external
environment and CED characteristics and other internal
attributes that has changed the CED attributes turnaround
actions should address identity and business environment
issues. The choice of actions will have  to  transform
identity  and  also  implement  strategic  change. The
strategy combining identity transformation with strategic
change  is  identity  transforming  turnaround strategy.
Transformational strategy is a strategic choice and can
be employed in any decline context. OID context is an
opportunity for organisational change and transformation
and can be achieved by transforming the identity and
improving the performance in the process.
P10:  Perception  of  either  CED  characteristics
as  causes  of  decline  or  change  in  CED
characteristics would induce organisational
identity  dissonance;  and  only  identity
conficting turnaround strategies leading to
change  in organisational  identity will  lead
to performance improvement; if there is no
change in identity, these strategies will further
induce decline and dissonance.
P11:  If either the internal non CED characteristics
or  external  environment  were  causes
of  decline  then  only  identity  congruent
turnaround strategies will lead to performance
improvement.VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
42  l  Jeyavelu
P12:  If  both  external  environment  and  CED
characteristics were causes of decline then only
identity  transforming  turnaround strategies
will lead to performance improvement.
P13:  Under severe decline, identity transforming
turnaround  strategy  is  a  strategic  choice,
independent of  the cause, pace and period
of  decline  and will  lead  to  performance
improvement.
Implications for Theory and 
Practice, Limitations and Future Directions
Organisational identity dissonance is emerging as an
important construct in the feld of organisational identity,
which itself is gaining prominence in organisation studies
(Albert, Ashforth and Dutton, Corley et al., 2006; Ravasi
and Schultz, 2006; Whetten, 2006). Organisational decline
and turnaround is a well researched feld, still there is a
lack of clarity and consensus on the nature of decline,
antecedents and consequences of decline and turnaround,
turnaround choices, actions and strategies, and the impact
across individual, interpersonal, group, organisation,
inter-organisation and economy levels (Ahlstrom and
Bruton, 2004; Mellahi and Wilkinson, 2004).
The  rich  theory  in  organisational  decline  and
turnaround provides for fne grain analysis and more
sophisticated theory building in organisational identity
dissonance  and  in  general  organisational  identity
literature. Organisational decline is a special case of high
emotionality, complex interactions among stakeholders,
managers and employees, strong contingent effects, path
dependency, and choice making (Arogyaswamy, Barker
and Yasai-Ardekani, 1995; Khandwalla, 1992 and 2001;
Maheshwari and Ahlstrom, 2004; Pearce and Robbins,
1993). Analysing organisational  identity dissonance
in this context enables for better understanding of the
construct, its infuencing factors and the consequences.
This  paper  developed  three  antecedents  of
organisational identity dissonance – ‘threat of existence’,
organisational  identity attributes  (CED) as cause of
decline and change in CED characteristics. These add
to the existing list of antecedents – identity –image in
congruency, identity – action in congruency, loss of social
referents and temporal identity discontinuity (Corley,
2004; Corley and Gioia, 2004; Dutton and Dukerich, 1991;
Elsbach and Kramer, 1996). Inclusion of organisational
identity dissonance elaborates and  refnes  the stress
associated with organisational decline and turnaround
(Whetten, 1980).
The turnaround strategies based on the congruency
between turnaround actions and identity add to the existing
turnaround typologies. Conceptualisation of typologies
based on identity congruency in turnaround actions has
the potential to generate better typologies and provide
managers with more effective choices (Khandwalla, 1991,
1992 and 2001). The contingency between antecedents
and level of dissonance, and turnaround strategies imply
complex  interactions between  these and needs  to be
explored further.
The proposed model contributes to existing literature
by including additional contingencies (Arogyaswamy,
Barker and Yasai-Ardekani, 1995; Pearce and Robbins,
1993); organisational stress in decline and turnaround
by  integrating  organisational  identity  dissonance
which is a deeper level construct (Cameron, Kim and
Whetten, 1987; Whetten 1980); turnaround typologies
by  including  identity congruency which  leads  to  the
complex differentiation of types (Khandwalla, 1992;
2001); turnaround strategy by increasing parsimony and
predictability (Schendel, Patton and Riggs, 1976); fner
conceptualisation of organisational identity dissonance
(Elsbach and Kramer, 1996); and most  importantly
increased breadth and depth in both organisational identity
and organisational decline and  turnaround  literature
(Alhstrom and Bruton, 2004; Corley et al., 2006; Mellahi
and Wilkinson, 2004; Whetten, 1980, 1989 and 2006).
Articulating the stress experienced during decline as
organisational identity dissonance, this model provides
viable alternatives to turnaround managers. Identity is
a powerful construct and effective use of it can aid any
organisational change effort. Ignorance of the constructs
can lead to unanticipated and unexpected consequences
and reduced choices. For example managers can choose to
address any of decline, its causes or choice of turnaround
actions from identity perspective. Organisational identity
dissonance provides a change ready context from which
managers  can  shape  the desired  identity. They  can
address the stress of decline by linking or de-linking it
from organisation’s purpose of existence and manage
appropriately for changing the identity. Organisational
transformation  is not possible without changing  the
organisations identity or transforming it in the process.
One of the limitations of this model and a direction
for future research is that the model does not cover a
context where  the organisation might have multiple
identities. The identity dissonance dynamics is likely to
be more complicated under multiple identities (Albert
and Whetten, 1985; Pratt and Foreman, 2000). This
paper has assumed identity to be socially constructed. VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective l Vol. 13 l No. 2 l April–June 2009
Organisational Identity Dissonance in Organisational Decline and Turnaround  l  43
Some authors argue that identity is negotiated through
repeated interactions between stakeholders (Scott and
Lane, 2000). The process of interaction and negotiation
among stakeholders in managing identity dissonance
and turnaround responses is another researchable area
not covered  in  this paper. From  the psychodynamic
tradition, defense and coping mechanisms by members;
and the interplay between the individual and emergent
collective defense mechanisms, individual and collective
coping mechanisms, and dynamics of experience of
identity dissonance at individual and collective levels
are critical areas for research in the context of decline and
turnaround (Brown and Starkey, 2000). The collective
identity narratives of decline and turnaround choices
and are another rich area which is largely unexplored
and promising (Chreim, 2005). Multilevel theorising
across individual, interpersonal, sub-group and collective
in  terms of dissonance  in  the context of decline and
turnaround would add to much needed grand theories of
organisational identity (Corley et al., 2006; Klein, Tosi,
Cannella 1999; Whetten, 2006).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The paper proposed a model of organisational identity
dissonance  in  the  context of organisational decline
and turnaround. The model specifed three sources of
organisational  identity dissonance – decline, which
is further sub-divided into severity, pace and period;
change in organisational identity attributes; and CED
characteristics as cause of decline. The congruency of
the turnaround actions and organisational identity leads
to three broad turnaround strategies – identity congruent,
identity conficting and identity transforming turnaround
strategies. The turnaround strategies are contingent on the
cause of decline, decline severity, pace and period, and
level of organisational identity dissonance.
Identity conficting turnaround strategy is apt for
decline caused by CED characteristics or perception of
change in CED characteristics and has the potential for
aggravating the dissonance and decline increasing the
risk of failure. However managed properly it can lead
to change  in  the  identity and  improve performance.
Identity congruent strategy is better when the cause of
decline is external or internal non CED characteristics.
Identity  transforming  turnaround  strategy  is most
appropriate when the decline is caused by a combination
of internal and external factors. It is also a strategic choice
independent of the turnaround context and contingencies
and an opportunity for change and transformation of the
organisation.
The model posits that the choice of turnaround actions
should be a conscious choice with adequate understanding of
the infuences of an organisational identity. Understanding
and appropriate use of organisational identity dissonance
in turnaround can increase the effectiveness of turnaround
choices. Integrating organisational identity dissonance in
turnaround managers’ diagnostic and decision repertoire
can improve managerial decision making in decline and
turnaround. Organisational identity dissonance has the
potential  for better  theory building  in organisational
decline and turnaround and this specifc context adds
to  finer  conceptualisation of organisational  identity
dissonance and theories of organisational identity. The
paper  contributes  to  the  organisational  decline  and
turnaround literature by introducing a new variable OID;
refning the causal, interaction and contingent effects
between the causes, decline and choice of turnaround
actions and other related variables; and providing an
opportunity  for  furthering  theory building  in  future.
The specifc context of decline and turnaround can lead
to  finer  conceptualisation of organisational  identity
dissonance  and  theories  of  organisational  identity.
Inclusion of multilevel theorising, multiple identities,
stakeholder, psychodynamic and narrative perspectives
in organisational identity dissonance in the context of
decline and turnaround would lead to better theory and
contribute to all of these sub felds (Albert, Ashforth and
Dutton, 2000).
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S. Jeyavelu (sjvelu@gmail.com) is a Fellow of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad specialising in Organisational Behaviour.
He is faculty member of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, on long leave and currently a visiting professor at VIT Business
School, VIT University, Vellore. He teaches Organisational Design, Creativity, Organisational Identity, Organisational Change, Turnaround,
Organisational Development, Organisational Behaviour, Strategic Management, Case Method, and Qualitative Research. He is also a
Fellow of Sumedhas Academy for Human Context.

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