Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Voluntary Professional Relational Loss: The Intersectionality Between Workplace Relationships and Organizational Identity

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Terry Rentner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lynn Whitney (Other)

Third Advisor

John Dowd (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)


The dissolution of personal relationships in organizational life creates a tremendous opportunity for academic research. Throughout the 20th century, researchers became increasingly aware of the need to learn more about the value of relationships focusing on friend and romantic relationships. However, the dissolution of personal relationships within the organizational setting has been largely overlooked. By creating the term, “Voluntary Professional Relational Loss,” research is now able to step into this void. The research focused on the individual who remains within the institution after relational loss. The effects of relational loss can produce adverse effects both personally (Rose, 1984; Rose & Serafica, 1986) and professionally (Locke, 1976; Sias et al., 2004). A multidisciplinary approach was taken relying on Communication Theory of Identity as well as Relational Dialectics. The theories compliment each other by exploring major turning points in relationships and how this can lead to altered individual identity. Each example of voluntary professional relational loss is unique and personal. As such, one-on-one in-depth interviews were conducted utilizing Narrative Analysis. Narrative Analysis proved to be the most advantageous use of analysis due to its heavy emphasis on stories and allowing each participant to share their experience through storytelling. Research was broken down and organized by four guiding research questions. Results supported the notion that VPRL is a real phenomenon, has nearly exclusively negative affects for those who experience it and can lead to an increased likelihood to leave the institution due to VPRL.