Project managers on the edge : liminality and identity in the management of technical work

Paton, Steve and Hodgson, Damian (2016) Project managers on the edge : liminality and identity in the management of technical work. New Technology, Work and Employment, 31 (1). pp. 26-40. ISSN 0268-1072

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    Abstract

    This paper explores the consequences of ‘corporate professionalization’ 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.