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Moving in, moving on: liminality practices in project-based work
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (Contech)
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway. (Contech)
2014 (English)In: Employee relations, ISSN 0142-5455, E-ISSN 1758-7069, Vol. 36, no 2, 182-197 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the practices mobile project workers rely upon to deal with their liminal work situation, i.e. a work situation in which they are “in-between” and do not have a clear long-term belonging to any specific organisation or project.

Design/methodology/approach – The study employs a qualitative approach and draws upon in-depth interviews with 24 engineers working for one of Scandinavia's leading technical consultancies. The aim of the qualitative data analysis was to identify a set of commonalities and differences in their experiences and ways of dealing with liminality.

Findings – The data indicate that mobile project workers experience their liminality in two separate dimensions; one which is primarily technical and task related, and one that is predominantly group related and social. These types of liminality are dealt with either actively, to lower or handle the ambiguity in the situation, or passively when the individual waits for the situation to be dealt with by others. Based on these two dimensions and types, the paper identifies and discusses four kinds of liminality practices.

Research limitations/implications – The paper demonstrates the importance of focusing on individuals in project-based work, and specifically how they deal with work in-between. The paper shows when and how individuals make use of different liminality practices in their work, and calls for further research on the different skill sets and competencies that are needed to deal with liminality.

Originality/value – By identifying four liminality practices applied in situations signified by the experience of being in-between, this study offers an important contribution to the literature on flexible and mobile work conditions. Thus, the paper contributes to the knowledge of threshold-like employment positions that denotes the everyday work situation for an increasing number of individuals engaged in knowledge-intensive and project-based work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. Vol. 36, no 2, 182-197 p.
Keyword [en]
Employee attitudes, Employee involvement, Employee relations, Flexible labour, Labour mobility, Qualitative methods
National Category
Work Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-103345DOI: 10.1108/ER-11-2012-0081ISI: 000346112000005OAI: diva2:688590
Available from: 2014-01-17 Created: 2014-01-17 Last updated: 2015-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Liminality at Work: Mobile Project Workers In-Between
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Liminality at Work: Mobile Project Workers In-Between
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This doctoral thesis addresses how mobile project workers; technical consultants working in projects, experience and deal with project-based work. The thesis consists of a compilation of five papers and an extended summary. It is based on three qualitative studies including methods like interviews, diaries, and observations. The thesis adopts and develops the conceptual lens of liminality.

The results of this thesis show that mobile project workers use four different practices to deal with liminality at work. Furthermore, the thesis develops the framework of “liminality competence,” indicating that some mobile project workers are better at utilizing their liminal positions than others. The thesis also studies how liminality competence is developed and how formal training programs influence the liminal position for mobile project workers.

Abstract [sv]

I denna avhandling studeras hur mobila projektarbetare, i detta fall teknikkonsulter som utför arbete i kundprojekt, upplever och hanterar projektbaserat arbete. Avhandlingen presenterar tre kvalitativa studier som bygger på intervjuer, dagboksanteckningar och deltagande observationer. Avhandlingen består av fem artiklar och en kappa. För denna studie används begreppet liminalitet som fångar den mobilitet och organisatoriska tvetydighet som föreligger i mobila projektarbetares arbetssituation.

Avhandlingen utvecklar liminalitetsbegreppet ytterligare relaterat till liminella positioner i arbetslivet. Analysen identifierar fyra liminalitetspraktiker som mobila projektarbetare använder för att hantera sin arbetssituation. Dessutom utvecklas begreppet liminalitetskompetens. Detta begrepp används för att förstå hur mobila projektarbetare hanterar sin liminella arbetssituation och vilka skillnader som finns vad gäller förmågan att hantera liminalitet i arbetet. Avhandlingen undersöker också hur sådan kompetens utvecklas och hur formella lärandeprogram kan påverka liminalitetssituationen och liminalitetskompetensen hos mobila projektmedarbetare.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 100 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 614
Mobile project workers, liminality, project-based work, contingent workers, liminality practices, liminality competence, Mobila projektarbetare, liminalitet, projektbaserat arbete, konsulter, liminalitetspraktiker, liminalitetskompetens
National Category
Business Administration
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105481 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-105481 (DOI)978-91-7519-364-9 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-03-25, C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2015-09-22Bibliographically approved

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Borg, ElisabethSöderlund, Jonas
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