This study explores the discursive positioning of managers involved in inter-organizational relationships (IORs) within industrial supply chains. In closely examining a series of interviews, we find a number of interpretive repertoires of boundary construction used in IOR managers’ identity discourse. Our analysis of these repertoires suggests that, although the development of IORs apparently signals the emergence of ‘widening circles of identification’, distinction drawing and boundary setting is as much a part of managers’ IOR talk as boundary transcendence. IOR managers can thus be seen as ‘boundary bricoleurs’ who discursively mark different self/other boundaries that varyingly position themselves, and their colleagues, competitors, customers and suppliers, as ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the organization, the market, the relationship or their field of expertise. In this tensile positioning, they forestall closure on their identity by constantly shifting identifications, sometimes within the same stretch of talk. Oscillating between an inclusive and an exclusive ‘us’ and thus articulating embracing yet distinctive identities vis-à-vis other network actors enables IOR managers to navigate through their complex and dynamic inter-organizational field, maintaining multiple inter-firm relationships while at the same time preserving their own organizational and professional status within these relationships
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