The firm that would not die: post-death organizing, alumni events, and organization ghosts

Michael Power, Penelope Tuck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

We show that alumni events, as settings where workplace identities and relationships reappear and are restaged, are not simply instruments to build and sustain commercially valuable networks. In some cases, they are also forms of post-death organizing for the purpose of celebrating and remembering defunct organizations. Based on participant observation of three annual lunches for alumni of the former accountancy firm Deloitte Haskins & Sells, and interviews with participants, organizers and non-participants, we show that, while alumni reveal an identification with the firm by the act of attending, their first-order motives are primarily social i.e. to meet old colleagues. The “dead” firm as an organization is an indistinct object for them. Yet notwithstanding the weak nature of their firm-based identity, in aggregate the seating arrangements at these lunches re-stage formal features of the dead organization simply from individual alumnus choices to sit with former colleagues. Far from being a trivial emergent outcome, our hand-collected seating plan data is suggestive of how organizations can have a “ghostly” afterlife via alumni events. This analysis establishes intersections between studies of professional service firm alumni events, post-death organizing and ghostliness and points to a broader agenda of enquiry into the afterlife of defunct organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102647
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Volume99
Early online date22 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Alumni
  • Deloitte Haskins & Sells
  • Hauntology
  • Organization ghost
  • Post-death organizing
  • Professional Service Firms

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