Identity on the line: constructing professional identity in a HR call centre

Pritchard, Katrina and Symon, Gillian (2011). Identity on the line: constructing professional identity in a HR call centre. Work, Employment and Society, 25(3) pp. 434–450.



This article applies insights from the social construction of professional identity to an understanding of the ‘professional service’ call centre representative (CSR). In this case, HR (Human Resources) practitioners found themselves in a CSR role in a newly constituted HR call centre and this research explores how they then (re-)constructed their role as professionals within this context. Through a longitudinal, ethnographic study, three key constructions are identified through which CSRs made claims for a professional identity: ‘our work is complex’; ‘our work adds value’; and ‘our work is unique’. The analysis highlights that a contemporary concern with re-orienting HR to a strategic role may lead to perceived segregation and the re-negotiation of professional identities vis-à-vis other groups of HR professionals. Overall, this research challenges accepted norms and definitions of both call centre work and professional identity, suggesting that both are contested and localised constructions achieved through identity work.

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