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Making Sense of New Parents\u27 Working Parent Identities and Boundary-Setting Enactments During Resocialization into the Workplace Following Parental Leave


Attending to new parents’ identity sensemaking (Weick, 1995) and work/life boundaries (Buzzanell et al., 2005), this dissertation is divided into four chapters. Chapter One contextualizes my dissertation research and qualitative methodology alongside work/life communication scholarship. Chapters Two and Three contain two stand-alone studies. Finally, Chapter Four integrates Chapter Two and Three findings while also addressing future directions for work/life research. Below, I provide abstract overviews of the empirical studies in Chapters Two and Three. By identifying the macro and meso discourses that emerged in new parents’ identity sensemaking (Weick, 1995), Chapter Two demonstrates how prior worker and new parent identities coalesced into a new working parent identity. Drawing on qualitative interview data from 16 new (working) parents, this study extends work/life and sensemaking research by decentering sensemaking (Introna, 2018) to consider multiple meaning-making agencies and/or contexts (Cooren, 2010; Introna, 2018; Wieland, 2010). Layering a ventriloquial lens (Cooren, 2010) onto my analysis of sensemaking, my findings identify the ventriloquial figures that emerged in new parents’ sensemaking and demonstrate how 1) ventriloquial figures functioned to fracture new parents’ working parent identities and 2) new parents agentically repositioned these figures to construct an evolving working parent identity. Theoretically, this study contributes to understandings of how human and immaterial agency co-constitutes micro-level negotiations of identity. Chapter Three attends to new parents’ boundary-setting enactments (Ashforth et al., 2000) during workplace resocialization following parental leave, a planned organizational change (Lewis, 1999) and workplace transition (Kramer, 2010). I analyze boundary-setting enactments of 16 new parents who returned to the workplace after parental leave through the lens of control and resistance (Zoller & Ban, 2020). My findings illustrate an overarching tension between maintaining a professional identity and enacting a new, complex working parent identity during resocialization, and demonstrate how new parents enacted control and resistance in identity, time, and topic boundary-setting contexts by aligning with professional norms or privileging a complex working parent identity. Examining new parents’ blurred work/life boundaries and tensioned identities during organizational resocialization, this study contributes to theoretical understandings of the reciprocal influence between micro work/life boundary-setting enactments and meso organizational structures (i.e., professional norms)

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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Last time updated on 19/07/2023

This paper was published in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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