Betwixt and between: Temporary employees as liminal subjects in flexible organizations
1999 (English)In: Organization Studies, ISSN 0170-8406, E-ISSN 1741-3044, Vol. 20, no 4, 601-617 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
As organizations change to become more flexible and transient, the use of a flexible workforce becomes an attractive solution. Temporary employees are here tentatively viewed as being `betwixt and between' organizational structures, in transit between the relatively fixed positions of full-time, regular employment. Building on previous fieldwork and recent interviews among temporary employees in Sweden and the US, the notion of liminality is employed to explore aspects of temporary work. The liminal position of `temporaries', it is suggested, is an ambiguous position involving both risks and opportunities for individuals, temporary staffing agencies, and client organizations alike. It may be seen as a seedbed of cultural creativity, where old perspectives on work and subjectivity are contested and new ones created. Related to the transient, mobile character of temporary employment, is an enhanced awareness of substitutability and a continuous reflexive monitoring of manners and competencies. Furthermore, the mobile and temporary character of assignments lead to the development of transient and episodic imagined communities of the workplace.
Through the lens of liminality then, temporal and contractual flexibilization of work is seen to challenge the old boundaries of industrial society and to suggest new ways of organizing and experiencing work, as well as new ways of constructing organizational subjectivity.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
1999. Vol. 20, no 4, 601-617 p.
temporary agency work, liminality, flexibility, worklife
Research subject Social Anthropology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-65403DOI: 10.1177/0170840699204004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-65403DiVA: diva2:463152