This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of identity threat. Focussing on the individual level of analysis I examine, in three separate essays, threat's antecedents, the ways individuals respond to threat and the consequences of these responses. The first essay reconceptualizes identity threat and develops a theoretical model that generates insights into how individuals respond to identity threats originating from a range of sources. I use this theory to explore the consequences of different threat responses for an individual and their organization. The second essay is an inductive study that investigates the effects of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the identities of senior level leaders within BP. I show that in the process of sensemaking triggered by strong identity threat, people legitimized different sources of sensegiving depending on their personal involvement in the crisis response. This differentiation in the legitimization of sensegivers led to two distinct sensemaking narratives that provided plausible, yet opposing, rationalizations of the crisis and its meaning for the future of BP. The third essay investigates how and in what conditions an individual responds to identity threats with responses aimed at protecting versus recrafting their identity. Through an inductive study conducted with senior members of the investment banking profession in the wake of the financial crisis, I show that threat strength is key in determining whether a person changes an aspect of their identity in response to threat. I also highlight how people couple self-directed responses with externally-directed ones that manage their relations with would be condemners.
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