Duality & social position: Role expectations of people who combine outsider-ness and insider-ness in organizational change
Esther Sackett, Assistant Professor of Management
Nigam, A., Sackett, E., & Golden, B. (2022). Duality and Social Position: Role expectations of people who combine outsider-ness and insider-ness in organizational change. Organization Studies, 43(3), 413–435. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840621989004
A person’s social position shapes whether and how they can influence organizational change. While prior research establishes people whose social position combines outsider-ness and insider-ness as important change agents, we know little about how they influence change. We analyse a peer coaching initiative in Canadian hospitals to explain how outsider-insiders – in this case, organizational outsiders with professional proximity – advance change. Peer coaches were able to influence change by establishing and enacting a dual outsider-insider role and associated role expectations. We advance theory by showing that role expectations emphasizing duality that are rooted in social position, but created through social interaction, are a key mechanism by which the potential of outsider-insider social positions can be activated and mobilized to influence change. We advance theory on social position generally by highlighting the potential for integrating a symbolic interactionist perspective – focused on role expectations – into Bourdieu’s theory of fields.