University of Twente Student Theses


Emotional and coping responses to threats to professional identity in sustainability transitions

Breedveld, Stella (2024) Emotional and coping responses to threats to professional identity in sustainability transitions.

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Abstract:In today’s society, environmental problems form large challenges that can only be addressed by deep structural changes. Sustainability transitions embrace these challenges, calling for a radical transition towards a sustainable society to address these ongoing problems. This transition involves shifting towards practices that are better for the planet and society as a whole. However, changing or quitting certain practices can have an impact on practitioners’ professional identity. Professional identity focuses on the questions “who are we?” as members of a certain profession, and “what do we do?”. Previous research has emphasized the need to look at the role of identity and related emotional responses in sociotechnical transitions. Understanding this intersection between identity and emotions could provide more insight into barriers to this type of transitions. This research has attempted to fill these gaps in the research by examining how sustainability transitions might threaten the professional identity of involved actors, and which emotional and coping responses follow as a result of these threats. In order to create a framework with regard to these different concepts, a total of fifteen semi-structured interviews of approximately 45 minutes were held with Dutch farmers in the region of Twente. Dutch farmers were chosen as the sample group since they are currently involved in big transitions with regard to the nitrogen crisis and new government regulations. The data acquired through the interviews was analyzed using the Gioia method. The results of the analysis show three potential threats to professional identity: threat of having to exit the profession, threat of having to let go of familiar practices and threat of profession being viewed in a negative light. In turn, these threats to professional identity provoke five different emotional responses: feelings of sadness, fear, powerlessness, frustration and optimism. In order to cope with these threats to professional identity and associated emotions, four different coping mechanisms were employed: agency, enhancing public opinion, having a social support network and exiting the identity. Recommendations for future research include adding more professions, studying different cultural and political contexts to make the findings more robust, and including longitudinal studies to study how emotions, coping mechanisms and identity adaptation develop over time in sustainability transitions.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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