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Making sense of part-time professional work arrangements Clark, Vivien Sarah


This dissertation is about part-time professional work arrangements - how they are created and sustained within particular organizational contexts. I argue that, while this category of workers is growing, it still poses a challenge to professionals attempting to enact part-time professional work in particular organizational contexts. Drawing on research in the areas of organizational culture, socialization, and interaction rituals, I locate this challenge in the social interactions through which part-time professionals and those they work with attempt to navigate the job- and role-related implications of moving to a part-time professional work schedule. Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with part-time professionals, and in some cases their managers and coworkers, in each of four organizational contexts, I developed a list of seven conceptual categories which describe the work which goes into creating and sustaining part-time professional work arrangements. These categories are: laying the groundwork [for the move to part-time], creating the part-time position, and establishing expectations (all associated with the move to part-time work); and nmnaging work, managing boundaries, managing social networks, and managing [the social] discourse [of part-time professional work]. I found that professionals and those they work with are far more likely to focus on the job-related implications than they are the role-related implications of part-time professional work. I argue that by offering alternative work arrangements for professionals, organizations invite role innovation; by playing with the basic feature of the professional role (everavailability), they invite a new, contemporary definition of what it means to be a professional. However, these organizations fail to provide explicit guidelines for what this new definition might mean in terms of actual behaviours and relationships. The enactment of the actual terms of the arrangement is left up to the part-time professionals and those with whom they work. In other words, organizational support is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the creation of a part-time professional role. In contributing to our understanding of part-time professionals, this observation has two significant consequences. First, it suggests that professionals, their managers and coworkers are working without a prepared script and under locally idiosyncratic conditions. Second, it suggests that recognizing and processing these local arrangements at the organizational level will pose a challenge: that part-time work arrangements are, and have the potential to remain, ad hoc and locally idiosyncratic, suggests that future would-be part-time professionals may still be required to write their own scripts.

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