[Research Seminar] Accounting: “On becoming a partner: The phases of identity conversion during the promotion to partner” C. MANGEN – JMSB, Concordia University

Speakers: Claudine MANGEN
JMSB, Concordia University, Montreal Canada,

Co-authored with Claire GARNIER, from SKEMA Bordeaux

Date and Location – Thursday December 2nd 2021 from 14:30 to 16:00
in P400 (Paris campus), E033 (Lille campus) and on Zoom



Professional service firms (PSFs) face fundamental shifts in their work. How professionals employed in these firms identify with work is central for their motivation, commitment and motivation. The literature has not explored how partners in PSFs construct their professional identities, relying instead on auditors or managers. Yet partners are distinct from auditors. In this paper, we explore how the identity of auditors changes as they are promoted to partners. Relying on in-depth interviews with partners, auditors, and former auditors in a Big 4 office in France, we show that auditors go through an identity conversion when they become partners, which is characterized by two conversion phases.

The first conversion phase, which we call the projection phase, occurs during the period leading up to the promotion. Auditors adapt their ideal professional identity and, to a lesser extent, their experienced identity, from that of the auditor to that of the ideal partner. The second conversion phase happens during the period that follows the auditor’s promotion to partner, which we label the realization phase. Rookie partners, having taken on their new role, realize how their experience in this role is different from the experience in their former role and from their ideal.

They adjust their experienced identity to that of the actual partner. Our study contributes to research on accounting professionals by adopting a temporal, process perspective of partner identity and unpacking the identity construction process to show how auditors undergo an adjustment in ideal and experienced identities during the transition to partner. Our findings are relevant for the accounting profession, as they highlight the importance of professional identities, and changes therein, for how work is experienced.