Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Business Administration

First Advisor

Colbert, Amy

First Committee Member

Kristof-Brown, Amy

Second Committee Member

Li, Ning

Third Committee Member

Vasi, Bodi

Fourth Committee Member

Vough, Heather


Returning to work after retiring, called bridge employment, is rapidly becoming a common phenomenon in the work world. Despite its increasing prevalence, relatively little is known about the outcomes and processes. One proposed explanation of the relationship between bridge employment and outcomes such as health and life satisfaction is the role of identity-related changes. There are many identity related losses (e.g., loss of status) and transitions (e.g., no longer a full-time employee, no longer a supervisor) inherent in bridge employment. However, no studies have directly considered how identities are constructed to respond to these changes. Using a qualitative, grounded theory approach in which 46 individuals participated in semi-structured interviews, this dissertation seeks to answer the question of “How do individuals come to define who they are during the identity-related losses and liminality experienced during bridge employment?” These results expand existing theory to explain how bridge employment identities are constructed through an iterative process of reconciling preretirement career identities, retirement identities, and bridge employment identities. Specifically, identity threats, often spurred by losses of work roles, relationships, and health related to retiring, were successfully eliminated through substituting the motive for an alternative motive or redefining the motive. Bridge employment was also a time for motives such as self-actualization, reinvention, and generativity. Successful satisfaction of identity motives drove participants to internalize the bridge employment identities. Moreover non-work identities, such as being a volunteer or grandparent, became more important and fulfilled identity motives, even though they were generally in conflict with bridge employment identities and took time away from it. Moreover, participants reported that non-work activities were able to fulfill identity motives. In proving important to one’s identity, non-work identities became more central to one’s identity. Finally, the preretirement career identity enhanced the bridge employment identity and was sometimes changed itself through the iterative nature of the identity construction process. This research enriches our understanding of identity construction during bridge employment as well as suggests practical ways to improve the experience of working after retirement.


bridge employment, identity, retirement


xii, 177 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 134-156).


Copyright © 2018 Bethany S. Cockburn