How members of a bankrupted bank narrate legacy organizational identities
Organizations start, develop, and mature. Much research is done to learn about organizations’ identities during such developments. But organizations also decline and die and less research is conducted to understand these phases and especially how the organization’s identity is formed in and after such phases. The aim of this paper is to explore how an organization’s identity is re-constructed after organizational death. Based on interviews with members of a bankrupted bank who narrate their bankruptcy experiences, the paper explores how legacy organizational identity is constructed after organizational death. The paper shows how members draw on their legacy organizational identity to justify their past interpretations and responses to the intensifying bankruptcy threats. Members refer to their firm belief in the bank’s solid and robust identity claim when they explain how they disregarded increasing threats and fought to defend and preserve the organization. When the bank was declared bankrupt and the solid and robust identity claim was disconfirmed, members found comfort and guidance in an identity claim of local care and support. After the bankruptcy, part of the bank was acquired by another bank to which bankers needed to adapt. Even in the acquiring organization, the legacy organizational identity continued to play a significant role. The paper contributes to the important and timely emergence of theory on legacy organizational identity by showing how members of a dead organization does not hold one coherent and consistent legacy identity but construct multiple identities that are inconsistent and contradictory but integrated into a legacy organizational identity narrative that includes a legacy organizational identity transformation.