Project Managers on the Edge: Liminality and Identity in the Management of Technical Work

15 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2016

See all articles by Steve Paton

Steve Paton

University of Strathclyde - Department of Organisation and Strategy

Damian Hodgson

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School

Date Written: March 2016

Abstract

This paper explores the consequences of ‘corporate professionalisation’ through an analysis of the experiences of technical specialists adopting the position of project manager. Shifts towards ‘corporate professionalism’ in this and other occupations result in a tension between competing logics, the logic of the traditional profession versus another focused on delivery of market value for clients/employers. Living with this tension places project managers in a ‘liminal’ position in two ways; they find themselves in a liminal position created, first, by the transition from a technical specialist role into a managerial role, and second, as they occupy the space between the often opposing institutions of profession and employing organisation. Drawing on empirical data gathered within a project‐based industry and referring to Gouldner's ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘local’ typologies, we explore the ‘identity work’ engaged in by project managers as they attempt to creatively negotiate the tensions inherent in the role.

Keywords: corporate professions, project management, identity, liminality, cosmopolitan, local

Suggested Citation

Paton, Steve and Hodgson, Damian, Project Managers on the Edge: Liminality and Identity in the Management of Technical Work (March 2016). New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 31, Issue 1, pp. 26-40, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2753320 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12056

Steve Paton (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde - Department of Organisation and Strategy ( email )

Glasgow City, G1 1XQ
United Kingdom

Damian Hodgson

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

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