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Identifying as an outsider: implications for nonfamily in small family firms.

Cunningham, James



Family businesses are held in high regard the world over for their impact on employment, credited in part to their longevity and abundance. In spite of this omnipresence, we have only begun to understand the day-to-day realities of the family business as an employer. In this work, I look to further this understanding by investigating what it means to work for a family business. Nonfamily employees contribute greatly, however, they are not closely coupled to the identity of the family unit. I ask how they see, understand and deal with their identity as outsiders in a close family business. A social constructivist approach is used to paint a picture of how nonfamily identity is formed, using qualitative data and inductive analytical methods. Findings highlight the identity of nonfamily as developed through their relationship with the family business. This relationship is explained as a function of social identity theory and the implications forfamily business management are explored.


CUNNINGHAM, J. 2020. Identifying as an outsider: implications for nonfamily in small family firms. International journal of human resource management [online], 31(22), pages 2785-2807. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 27, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 27, 2018
Publication Date Dec 15, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 22, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 28, 2019
Journal International journal of human resource management
Print ISSN 0958-5192
Electronic ISSN 1466-4399
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 22
Pages 2785-2807
Keywords Family business; Non family employee; Social identity theory; Agency; Qualitative data
Public URL


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