Against Boundarylessness: The Liminal Career of the Flexible Employee

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Abstract

This article extends the critique of the boundaryless career concept by focusing on how organizational members may experience boundaries as ambiguous within contemporary career development in organizations. As an alternative to the concept of the boundaryless career, we introduce that of the liminal career. We consider a liminal career as occurring when the normal career path within an organization becomes a state of ‘betwixt and between’, wherein distinctions between social domains and work roles become diffuse, indeterminate and difficult to comprehend. We engage with this concept in relation to three boundaries that remain central within career development: organizational boundaries establishing a distinction between that which is internal and external to the organization, hierarchical boundaries separating employees and managers, and functional boundaries demarcating different work domains. Using a case that illustrates how employees experience ambiguous organizational, hierarchical and functional boundaries, we argue that the concept of the liminal career captures the essence of situations in which there is a lack of clear categories, trajectories and schemes from which to structure career paths in organizations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization
Volume26
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)917-935
Number of pages19
ISSN1350-5084
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: February 21, 2019

Keywords

  • Ambiguity
  • Boundaryless career
  • Career development
  • Flexibility
  • Liminal career
  • Liminality

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