Journal Article

Crab antics? Contesting and perpetuating status hierarchies in professional service firms

Lindsay Stringfellow and Alex Thompson

in Journal of Professions and Organization

Volume 1, issue 2, pages 118-136
Published in print September 2014 | ISSN: 2051-8803
Published online June 2014 | e-ISSN: 2051-8811 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jou001
Crab antics? Contesting and perpetuating status hierarchies in professional service firms

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  • Business and Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Ownership and Organization of Enterprises
  • Industry Studies
  • Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behaviour

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The focus of this research is a multi-level theory building exercise that highlights how status hierarchies are perpetuated, contested, and produced in small firm environments. Through eliciting the narratives of the owners of small accounting practices, we aim to explore the specific dynamics of status and to identify how informants come to understand, perpetuate, and change notions of status within their organizational field. We identify macro-theoretical perspectives through the notion of ‘status framing’, which unpacks the professional norms, institutional logics, and marketplace structures that shape industry practice and understanding. Drawing from micro-level perspectives of ‘status sensemaking’, we highlight how industry members create their own status perceptions that effectively legitimize, reinforce, and contradict industry status archetypes. We highlight the ‘crab antic’ nature to these status battles through narratives of ‘status reconciliation’, where informants effectively negotiate macro and micro status hierarchies. We explicate practice through linking the micro and macro realms of experience in small professional practices and identify how status is socially organized within the accounting profession. In doing so, we contribute to the status literature by highlighting that status is not a unified, stable concept, but one that is highly volatile and often undermined by actors vested in perpetuating the status quo.

Keywords: status; sensemaking; framing; hierarchy; professional service firms; small accounting practices

Journal Article.  10831 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Ownership and Organization of Enterprises ; Industry Studies ; Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behaviour

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