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Faculty & Research


Agony and Ecstasy in the Gig Economy: Cultivating Holding Environments for Precarious and Personalized Work Identities

Journal Article
Building on an inductive, qualitative study of independent workers (i.e., not affiliated with an organization or established profession), this paper develops a theory about the management of precarious and personalized work identities. The authors found that in the absence of organizational or professional membership, workers experienced stark emotional tensions encompassing both the anxiety and fulfillment of working under precarious and personal conditions. Lacking the holding environment provided by an organization, the workers they studied endeavored to create one for themselves through cultivating connections to routines, places, people, and a broader purpose. These personal holding environments helped them to manage the broad range of emotions stirred up by their precarious working lives, and to focus on producing work that let them define, express, and develop their selves. Elucidating the process through which people manage emotions associated with precarious and personalized work identities and thereby render their work identities viable and selves vital, this paper advances theorizing on the emotional underpinnings of identity work and the systems psychodynamics of independent work.

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour