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The client's role in influencing the independent workers thriving

Increased economic uncertainty, globalization, technological change and demographic shifts have affected the structure of the global labor market considerably (Petriglieri, Ashford, & Wrzesniewski, 2018). One trend that has changed the face of labor market is the evolution towards a so-called gig economy, a labor market that is characterized by a strong increase of alternative work arrangements. Alternative work arrangements differ from traditional work arrangements in the sense that contracts tend to be limited in time, and the work is not necessarily performed at the employer‟s place, nor under the direct supervision of the employer (Kalleberg, 2000), such as for example temporary work, independent work, and vendor-on-premises (e.g., on-site consultants). In this study, we focus on the category of independent workers, given that they constitute the fastest growing group of alternative work arrangements (Cappelli & Keller, 2013; McKinsey & Company, 2016). Independent workers are defined as self-employed entrepreneurs, who typically work alone, without organizational membership. They have contracts directly with clients and control the work process while the client specifies only the outcome (Cappelli & Keller, 2013). As such, they may work for multiple clients simultaneously and for various periods of time, and are responsible for arranging their own social security payments, taxes and benefits (Cappelli & Keller, 2013). Given the rise of alternative work arrangements in general, and of independent work in particular, scholars have highlighted that in order to get a full understanding of contemporary work, it is not only important to describe the different types of alternative work arrangements that exist, but to also understand the experiences of the individuals that work in those arrangements (Ashford, George, & Blatt, 2007; Petriglieri et al., 2018; Kunda, R. Barley, & Evans, 2002). So far, the organizational behavior literature has predominantly focused on the work experiences of employees in organizations, with far less attention to the work experiences of those individuals who develop their work lives in the absence of organizational membership (Petriglieri et al., 2018; Kunda et al., 2002; Ashford et al., 2007). In this setting, workers may experience chronic uncertainty about their work stability and meaning, as well as social and financial insecurity (Petriglieri et al., 2018). Research has shown that, in order to cope with this uncertainty, independent workers need to build resilience, through cultivating four types of connections: (1) a connection to routines; (2) a connection to people; (3) a connection to places; and (4) a connection to a broader purpose (Petriglieri et al., 2018). By fostering these four connections, independent workers can thrive in the labor market, which is defined as a positive psychological state characterized jointly by learning and vitality (Paterson, Luthans, & Jeung, 2014). While such studies highlight how independent workers can thrive given the high amounts of autonomy and uncertainty they face, the literature on independent workers' thriving does not fully acknowledge that independent workers do not operate in a vacuum. They typically work for clients, where they often even work side-by-side with a team of traditional employees on a specific task (Ashford et al., 2007; Connelly & Gallagher, 2004). To date, however, we know little about the extent to which clients may contribute to the four connections (people, space, purpose and routine) that are conducive for independent workers' thriving, and whether independent workers can benefit from it if clients provide these four connections to them. Even though there is a stream of literature focusing on the integration of independent workers, this literature takes a rather client-centered perspective on independent worker integration, and examines the various factors that should affect client's decision for hiring and integrating them. This research has shown that clients are more likely to integrate independent workers if they have expert knowledge (Galup, Saunders, Nelson, & Cerveny, 1997), as well as when the client's technologies and tools are non-adaptable (Connelly & Gallagher, 2004). The integration literature also tends to focus on the benefits and disadvantages that integration may yield for the client organization in terms of profitability or effectiveness. What the integration literature does not consider is whether clients also play a role (and even carry a responsibility) in contributing to independent worker's work experiences and thriving (Connelly et al., 2004). The integration literature also tends to treat integration as a unidimensional concept, without considering the various ways in which independent workers may be integrated with regards to the four connections identified by Petriglieri et al. (2018). For example, independent workers might be offered an office space (connection to a place), but might not be connected to the people in the client organization (e.g., workers are not invited to team meetings). Similarly, the independent worker might be connected to the routines of the organization (via fixed working hours), but may not necessarily be connected to the client's purpose (e.g., by not being informed about the client's strategy). As such, we aim to extend the current research on the integration of independent workers, by exploring how independent workers can influence the extent to which clients support the creation of the four types of connections identified by Petriglieri et al. (2018), as well as how this may influence important outcomes.
Date:1 Sep 2019 →  Today
Keywords:Gig worker, Freelancer, Identity
Disciplines:Human resource management
Project type:PhD project