“Negotiating Risk Identities in a Cage Fighting Co-Operative: Implications for Organizational Inclusion and Exclusion”


Inclusion is an important component for thriving in groups, teams, and organizations. However, the perceived risks of including (or excluding) newcomers into places of work remain understudied. In this paper, I draw on a multi-year qualitative study of a volunteer-based performing arts organization that stages live cage fights at festivals in the Southwest United States (Burning Man, Wasteland Weekend, and KnotFest) to examine how actors navigate and negotiate the risks of including new volunteers. I find that organizational members draw on past experiences with problematic newcomers to construct a social risk meta-narrative about the dangers of including individuals who are not already well known by at least one member. Further, newcomers and organizational members are guided by this meta-narrative, to varying extents, in the process of shaping the newcomer's identity as risky (or not) for inclusion. Given the potential costs and benefits of including newcomers, established organizational members negotiate the acceptability of each volunteer, based upon this constructed risk identity. My theoretical process model suggests that the outcomes of these negotiations can have both positive and negative effects on organizational members and newcomers, and serve to reinforce the organizational meta-narrative about newcomer inclusion.