The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Professional liminality: Independent consultants spanning professions

Professional liminality: Independent consultants spanning professions
Professional liminality: Independent consultants spanning professions
Management consultancy has received considerable interest as an arena of consultant and client insecurity where the quality of knowledge work is hard to judge. Attempts to address these issues have included investigations of professionalisation in consultancy. Much of this, and indeed most research on consultancy as a whole, has taken place in organisational settings with scant attention paid to self-employed consultants. Drawing on interviews with 50 independent consultants working in the UK and constructing these individuals as liminal, that is 'betwixt and between' and outside of many conventional structures, we contribute to the understanding of professionalisation in consultancy. Contrary to the assumption that these individuals would want further professionalisation as a mark of credibility, we argue that independent consultants adopt a strategy of professional liminality; an ambiguous and vague identity that enables them to win more business, cope with their outsider status and ultimately survive and thrive in their insecure position that is full of both anti-structure and freedom. Reflecting this back to wider debates, we show that away from the influence of employing organisations independent consultants shun many of the practices of professionalisation and derive credibility and legitimacy from clients and collaborators. We discuss independent consultants as pursuing an alternative to the professionalisation strategies in consultancy, an area that is already following a different path to more traditional professions.
Liminality, consutlancy, professions, self-employment
0065-0668
Cross, David
a240c578-1f07-45d8-b2f5-a61d71ec061d
Swart, Juani
a9474956-09f1-4faf-a612-61c7670dcbc9
Cross, David
a240c578-1f07-45d8-b2f5-a61d71ec061d
Swart, Juani
a9474956-09f1-4faf-a612-61c7670dcbc9

Cross, David and Swart, Juani (2018) Professional liminality: Independent consultants spanning professions. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2018 (1). (doi:10.5465/AMBPP.2018.14500abstract).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Management consultancy has received considerable interest as an arena of consultant and client insecurity where the quality of knowledge work is hard to judge. Attempts to address these issues have included investigations of professionalisation in consultancy. Much of this, and indeed most research on consultancy as a whole, has taken place in organisational settings with scant attention paid to self-employed consultants. Drawing on interviews with 50 independent consultants working in the UK and constructing these individuals as liminal, that is 'betwixt and between' and outside of many conventional structures, we contribute to the understanding of professionalisation in consultancy. Contrary to the assumption that these individuals would want further professionalisation as a mark of credibility, we argue that independent consultants adopt a strategy of professional liminality; an ambiguous and vague identity that enables them to win more business, cope with their outsider status and ultimately survive and thrive in their insecure position that is full of both anti-structure and freedom. Reflecting this back to wider debates, we show that away from the influence of employing organisations independent consultants shun many of the practices of professionalisation and derive credibility and legitimacy from clients and collaborators. We discuss independent consultants as pursuing an alternative to the professionalisation strategies in consultancy, an area that is already following a different path to more traditional professions.

This record has no associated files available for download.

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 9 July 2018
Published date: July 2018
Keywords: Liminality, consutlancy, professions, self-employment

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 426660
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/426660
ISSN: 0065-0668
PURE UUID: d167bff9-259f-4d2b-a368-369c3e78503c
ORCID for David Cross: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7984-3718

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Dec 2018 17:30
Last modified: 12 Dec 2021 04:25

Export record

Altmetrics

Contributors

Author: David Cross ORCID iD
Author: Juani Swart

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×