Understanding Cultural Capital for Impression Management in Asian Executives

Mak, Connie, Davies, Andrea and Tsaousi, Christiana (2018) Understanding Cultural Capital for Impression Management in Asian Executives. In: ACSCOS/SCOS Conference (Australasian Caucus (ACSCOS) and Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism (SCOS)), 17-20 August 2018, Tokyo, Japan.

SCOS 2018 -Abstract submission - Understanding Cultural Captial for Impression Management in Asian Executives.pdf
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SCOS 2018 -Abstract submission - Understanding Cultural Captial for Impression Management in Asian Executives.pdf
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This study aims to understand the process of how cultural capital for impression managment is learnt
and changes over people’s career life. While consumer research asserts that people widely use
consumption and other practices to establish their desirable self, most studies rely on snap-shot, cross�sectional views only. They also focus mainly on leisure and home settings, giving little attention to the
consumption practices in the mundane context of the workplace. Building on the work of Erving
Goffman and Pierre Bourdieu, this study aims to take a longitudinal biographical view to explore how
people notice, become skilled and enact cultural capital for impression management over their career
trajectories from junior to senior executive roles.
Based on retrospective narrative inquiries (Davies & Fitchett, 2015) and a novel on-route walking-with
interview (Richardson, 2015) to capture bodily and other affective resonances, this paper reports on our
analysis so far with ten senior executives in Hong Kong, as part of an on-going study. Mutability and
agency are key to understand the biographical evolution of cultural capital for impression management.
There are few ‘perfect’ or permanent resources or practices for impression management and resources
are found to keep changing over the career life of people. With little working experience and thin
cultural capital, junior professionals only rely on extrinsic ‘personal fronts’ and ‘sign vehicles’
(Goffman, 1959) to extend their work identity (Tian and Belk 2005). Variations are also limited due to
strong compliance to structural rules. Over time, and as cultural capital is accumulated and matured
through accrued learning and socialisation (Bourdieu, 1977; Skeggs 2004), senior executives build up
embodied habitus to differentiate themselves through more intrinsic competence and practices, such as
discourse and ability to read stakeholders’ mind. We report in this paper the kinds of extrinsic and
intrinsic resources used by executives and how they vary over their career life course.
The study attends to the field-specific nature of cultural capital (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992) where
professional competence or resources valued in one ‘field’ (be it an industry or a corporation) can
become liabilities or capital shocks in another. Such cultural shock, or as Bourdieu says ‘hysteresis
effect’, is explored as the rupture between the changing field conditions (McDonough & Polzer, 2012)
and we example where professionals shift from one field (e.g. industry) to another how their embodied
habitus causes conflicts and incongruity in the changing structures.
To extend Bourdieu’s theory, the study finds that a more ‘superior’ cultural capital shared by mature
professionals is not only residing in their adaptability to a given structure, but in their competence of
knowing their true self and identifying complementary and self-congruent fields to settle in. Rendering
‘cultural fit’ to people’s habitus, the optimal fields allow professionals to be more ‘true to themselves’
when manoeuvring and advancing their desired positions. We see that no working fields nor habitus are
‘perfect’ but experienced executives possess those ‘superior’ capitals to find desirable match between
the two, and this in itself is perceived as a form of ‘perfection’ expressed as rest, calm and self-knowing.

Keywords:impression management, cultural capital, habitus, work identity
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N500 Marketing
N Business and Administrative studies > N215 Organisational Development
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:45852
Deposited On:25 Aug 2021 11:27

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