Expertise is a key currency in today’s knowledge economy. Yet as experts increasingly move across work contexts, how expertise translates across contexts is less well understood. Here, we examine how a shift in context—which reorders the relative attention experts pay to distinct types of audiences—redefines what it means to be an expert. Our study’s setting is an established expertise in the creative industry: puppet manipulation. Through an examination of U.S. puppeteers’ move from stage to screen (i.e., film and television), we show that, although the two settings call on mostly similar techniques, puppeteers on stage ground their claims to expertise in a dialogue with spectators and view expertise as achieving believability; by contrast, puppeteers on screen invoke the need to deliver on cue when dealing with producers, directors, and co-workers and view expertise as achieving task mastery. When moving between stage and screen, puppeteers therefore prioritize the needs of certain audiences over others’ and gradually reshape their own views of expertise. Our findings embed the nature of expertise in experts’ ordering of types of audiences to attend to and provide insights for explaining how expertise can shift and become co-opted by workplaces
Becoming a manager is generally seen as a highly coveted step up the career ladder that corresponds to a gain in responsibility. There is evidence, however, that some individuals experience "managerial blues" or disenchantment with their managerial jobs after being promoted. While past scholarship points to individual differences (such as skills inadequacy) or the promotion circumstances (such as involuntary) as possible explanations for such blues, less is known as to how the expectations that people carry with them from past jobs – such as expectations about what responsibility entails – may shape their first managerial experience. To answer this question, we compare the experiences of supervisors coming from different jobs – i.e., former Paris subway drivers (working independently and impacting the lives of others) and station agents (working interdependently with limited impact on others’ lives) – that left them with distinct sets of expectations around responsibility. Drawing on interviews and observations, we find that former drivers developed a deep sense of "personal" responsibility. After promotion, their perceived managerial responsibility paled in comparison to their expectations of what it felt like to have personal responsibility, leading the majority to experience managerial blues. In contrast, former agents had few expectations of what responsibility entailed and reported no disenchantment once they joined the managerial ranks. Overall, we show how imprinted expectations shape people’s future managerial experiences, including their managerial blues, and discuss the implications of our findings for literatures on job mobility and job design.
A key assumption in past literature has been that human services workers become emotionally distant from their charges (such as clients or patients). Such distancing is said to protect workers from the emotionally draining aspects of the job but creates challenges to feeling and behaving compassionately. Because little is known about when and how compassion occurs under these circumstances, we conducted a multi-phased qualitative study of 119 correctional officers in the U.S. using interviews and observations. Officers’ accounts and our observations of their interactions with inmates included cruel, disciplinary, unemotional, and compassionate treatment. Such treatment varied by the situations that officers faced, and compassion was surprisingly common when inmates were misbehaving—challenging current understanding of the occurrence of compassion at work. Examining officers’ accounts more closely, we uncovered a novel way that we theorize human services workers can be compassionate, even under such difficult circumstances. We find that officers describe engaging in practices in which they (a) relate to others by leveling group-based differences between themselves and their charges and (b) engaged in self-protection by shielding themselves from the negative emotions triggered by their charges. We posit that the combined use of such practices offsets different emotional tensions in the work, rather than only providing emotional distance, and in doing so, can foster compassionate treatment under some of the most trying situations and organizational barriers to compassion.
Ghostwriters represent a form of labor aimed at producing someone else’s self, or what we label “stand-in labor.” This growing workforce sits at the intersection of critical developments in today’s neoliberal economy: the rise in self-branding, the growth in outsourcing of the self, and mounting income inequality. This article explores the experience of stand-in workers and its implication on the economy of self. Relying on 72 interviews with ghostwriters and publishing industry insiders, we show that ghostwriters face recognition estrangement because they are often asked to stay out of public view for the crafted selves to prove “authentic.” As creative workers with a high degree of investment in their work, ghostwriters are quite sensitive to this form of estrangement. They manage this tension in a unique way: they claim a professional need to disappear in order to properly put forth a subject’s “true” voice, yet emphasize their active contribution to the crafting of a subject’s public self that differs from the subject’s “true” self. In doing so, ghostwriters alter the subjects they impersonate by creating a distance between the subjects’ crafted and “actual” selves. Our study therefore uncovers a paradoxical dynamic—namely, taking professional pride in disappearing, yet reappearing in the act of altering others’ selves—that we posit might prove inherent to the performance of stand-in labor. More broadly, we suggest that many stand-in workers engaged in this growing economy of self might alter the people they impersonate, thus leading to a situation where calls for authenticity breed adulteration.
In this article, we examine a case of task segregation— when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job inequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers at a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. Female workers were disproportionately allocated to the pat-down task, the manual screening of travelers for prohibited items. Our findings suggest that this segregation led to overall poorer job quality outcomes for women. Task segregation overexposed female workers to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain, giving rise to work intensity, emotional exhaustion, and lack of coping resources. Task segregation also disproportionately exposed female workers to managerial sanctions for taking recuperative time off and a narrowing of their skill set that may have contributed to worse promotion chances, pay, satisfaction, and turnover rates for women. We conclude with a theoretical model of how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.
Management and organizational scholarship is overdue for a reappraisal of occupations and professions as well as a critical review of past and current work on the topic. Indeed, the field has largely failed to keep pace with the rising salience of occupational and professional—as opposed to organizational—dynamics in work life. Moreover, not only is there a dearth of studies that explicitly take occupational or professional categories into account, but there is also an absence of a shared analytical framework for understanding what occupations and professions entail. Our goal is therefore two-fold: first, to offer guidance to scholars less familiar with this terrain who encounter occupational or professional dynamics in their own inquiries and, second, to introduce a three-part framework for conceptualizing occupations and professions to help guide future inquiries. We suggest that occupations and professions can be understood through lenses of “becoming,” “doing,” and “relating.” We develop this framework as we review past literature and discuss the implications of each approach for future research and, more broadly, for the field of management and organizational theory.
Numerous scholars have noted the disproportionately high number of gay and lesbian workers in certain occupations, but systematic explanations for this type of occupational segregation remain elusive. Drawing on the literatures on concealable stigma and stigma management, we develop a theoretical framework predicting that gay men and lesbians will concentrate in occupations that provide a high degree of task independence or require a high level of social perceptiveness, or both. Using several distinct measures of sexual orientation, and controlling for potential confounds, we find support for these predictions across two nationally representative surveys in the United States. Consistent with prior research, lesbian and gay workers are more likely than heterosexual workers to cross gender lines in occupations, but even after controlling for this tendency, we show that common to both lesbians and gay men is a propensity to concentrate in those lines of work that are associated with relatively high levels of task independence or social perceptiveness, or both. This study points to a more comprehensive theory of occupational segregation on the basis of minority sexual orientation and holds implications for the literatures on stigma, occupations, and labor markets.
This spring the Freelancers Union conducted an online survey to find out who freelancers are, how they work and how they are faring.1 With more than 2,800 participants in the New York metropolitan area, this survey is one of the first efforts to get a comprehensive picture of New York’s independent workers. Four key findings emerged from the results:
1 - Freelancers are highly educated and participate in key sectors of the city’s economy as workers and as potential consumers. • 85% of New York’s freelancer respondents have at least a college degree. • The highest concentration work in the city’s key industries: advertising, publishing, film and television, technology and the arts. • Their median income is $50,000, 20% higher than the city’s overall median.
2 - Freelancers are fleeing corporate America. • More than 60% cited some form of freedom (from office politics, difficult bosses, cubicles and commutes) as a main benefit to their lifestyle. • 86% cited having a “flexible schedule” as one of the main advantages of freelancing.
3 - Freelancers are an emerging constituency and they vote in record numbers. • More than half (53%) see themselves as members of a freelancer community. • 100% of respondents have voted in a national election, 87% in a state election and 83% in a local election.
4 - Freelancers who responded to our survey fall out of the social safety net. • About 28% of freelancers who participated in the survey spent some portion of the last year without health insurance. • Less than half (47%) save money for retirement each month.
The survey findings indicate that freelancers are entrepreneurial workers who succeed because of their creativity, independence and drive. They contribute to key sectors of the New York City economy and are an engaged constituency.
But freelancers’ struggles are perhaps even more telling. Operating entirely outside of the safety net of employer-provided benefits, their experience illustrates the grave flaws in our system of social insurance, which limits access to health insurance and retirement plans to those with traditional employment relationships. Furthermore, as the employer-sponsored benefits system continues to erode, independent workers might well be the proverbial canaries in the coal mine demonstrating to traditional employees what their future might hold. Freelancers’ experiences have long-term implications for New York City and its public policy, as well as for the entire country.