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Liminality at Work: Mobile Project Workers In-Between
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
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.
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 614
Keyword [en]
Mobile project workers, liminality, project-based work, contingent workers, liminality practices, liminality competence
Keyword [sv]
Mobila projektarbetare, liminalitet, projektbaserat arbete, konsulter, liminalitetspraktiker, liminalitetskompetens
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105481DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-105481ISBN: 978-91-7519-364-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-105481DiVA: diva2:707642
Public defence
2014-03-25, C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2015-09-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Moving in, moving on: liminality practices in project-based work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Moving in, moving on: liminality practices in project-based work
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
Keyword
Employee attitudes, Employee involvement, Employee relations, Flexible labour, Labour mobility, Qualitative methods
National Category
Work Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-103345 (URN)10.1108/ER-11-2012-0081 (DOI)000346112000005 ()
Available from: 2014-01-17 Created: 2014-01-17 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Liminality competence: An interpretative study of mobile project workers’ conception of liminality at work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Liminality competence: An interpretative study of mobile project workers’ conception of liminality at work
2015 (English)In: Management Learning, ISSN 1350-5076, E-ISSN 1461-7307, Vol. 46, no 3, 260-279 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study focuses on individuals working under transient and mobile conditions and the specific competences that they develop to deal with such work conditions. The article examines a specific type of knowledge worker, namely, the mobile project worker who is employed by a technical consultancy but who performs work on various client projects together with members from client organizations. The overall aim of this article is to improve our understanding of the differences among people’s abilities to handle fluid and flexible work conditions. We elaborate on the notion of “liminality” to denote a particular element of flexible work conditions, which consists of continuous movement among assignments and of simultaneous engagement with several organizations. Based on qualitative and interpretative research involving a combination of interviews, diaries, and workshops, this article identifies three levels of specific “liminality competence” that mobile project workers develop to deal with liminality at work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2015
Keyword
Liminality competence, flexible work, project work, technical consultants, narrative diaries
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105477 (URN)10.1177/1350507613516247 (DOI)000356423300002 ()
Note

Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsradet); Riksbankens Jubileumsfond; Handelsbankens forskningsstiftelser

Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2017-12-05
3. The nature and development of liminality competence: Narratives from mobile project workers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The nature and development of liminality competence: Narratives from mobile project workers
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This paper describes and analyzes the nature and development of liminality competence among mobile project workers. It draws on an interpretative approach documenting how mobile project workers develop their conceptions of work performed in liminal (in-between) positions. The overall aim is to extend the knowledge on how people in time-limited and ambiguous work positions develop competencies to address their specific work conditions.

Design: This research relies on two in-depth narratives of mobile project workers drawn from a larger longitudinal study. The data include diaries and interviews. The study seeks to identify similarities and differences in the development of liminality competence over time.

Findings: Three processes were identified as important in developing higher liminality competence: (1) understanding the value of in-betweenness, (2) understanding the role of the liminar as different and (3) translating liminal experience through reflexivity. The paper generally demonstrates the importance of context and critical events in progressing through these three processes.

Practical implications: The paper demonstrates the need for employers to support individuals in passing through the three identified processes and to support thoughtful mobility across different project settings.

Originality/value: In the dual ambition of offering insights based on interpretative research on competence and putting greater emphasis on people working in in-between positions, this study enhances the understanding of how individuals develop their conceptions of work in general and their conceptions of liminality at work in particular.

Keyword
Liminality, liminality competence, competence development, consultant, engineer, project work
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105478 (URN)
Conference
EURAM 2012. 12th Conference on Social Innovation for Competitiveness Organisational Performance and Human Excellence, 6th-8th June, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2014-03-25Bibliographically approved
4. Enhancing liminality through formal training: creating alterities through rites of passage
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Enhancing liminality through formal training: creating alterities through rites of passage
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Liminality is gaining a greater importance in contemporary organizations. Workers’ organizational membership is often ambiguous and their assignments are often temporary and boundary-crossing. The aim of this study is to investigate how an introductory development program (IDP) for newlyhired consultants addresses the liminal positions of mobile project workers, and whether IDP can aid the participants in dealing with positions of liminality at work. The findings suggest that, unlike “traditional” organizational introduction programs, the studied IDP does not emphasize socialization of the participants into such that they identify with the company; instead, their alterity is emphasized – thereby enhancing the workers’ liminal position. Moreover, the study shows how distancing techniques used to reflect on liminality at work can broaden the liminars’ scope of action.

Keyword
Liminality, development program, rite of passage, consultants, project work, alterity
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105479 (URN)
Conference
IRNOP XI. The Project Research Conference, June 16-18, Oslo, Norway
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2014-03-25Bibliographically approved
5. The concept of liminality in management and organizational studies: Past accomplishments and future challenges
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The concept of liminality in management and organizational studies: Past accomplishments and future challenges
2013 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents a systematic literature review of studies of liminality in management and organization studies. The attempts by studies in this field to develop knowledge on contemporary organizations and organizing, as well as the effects it has on the people who dwell in them, has led to the emergence of new or renewed conceptualizations and constructs. One such concept is that of liminality. The present paper provides a foundation for future explorations by untangling different applications of liminality in management and organization research. The paper also provides suggestions for future research inquiries that rely on the liminality metaphor.

Series
Nordic Academy of Management, ISSN 2298-3112
Keyword
Liminality, systematic literature review, rites of passage, contingent work
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-105480 (URN)
Conference
Nordic Academy of Management (NFF), Reykjavik, Island, August 21-23, 2013
Available from: 2014-03-25 Created: 2014-03-25 Last updated: 2014-03-25Bibliographically approved

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