Going Off Script: How Managers Make Sense of the Ending of Their Careers


Address for reprints: Heather C. Vough, 509 Carl H. Lindner Hall, Carl H. Linder College of Business, University of Cincinnati, 2925 Campus Green Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA (voughhr@ucmail.uc.edu).


The extant retirement literature primarily focuses on factors that influence the decision to retire and the generic retirement decision-making process. While these approaches have extended our understanding of retirement decision-making, we propose a sensemaking perspective that orients our attention towards the subjective meanings people attach to the factors that trigger the retirement decision, rather than simply the factors themselves. Accordingly, we see the retirement decision-making process as bounded by situational constraints and rooted in identity work. Based on interviews with 48 retired Canadian executives and managers, we use thematic narrative analysis to identify six types of end-of-career narratives. Drawing on these narratives, we present a model of identity work that distinguishes between retirement decision-making factors that are perceived as identity opportunities and those that are perceived as identity threats. Our findings contribute to scholarly understanding of subjective meanings and identity considerations in the process of ending one's career.