Property in knowledge work: an appropriation‐learning perspective

Ashly H. Pinnington (The British University in Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Ken Kamoche (Nottingham Business School, The Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Yuliani Suseno (Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 1 January 2009



The aim of this paper is to understand the competitive and collaborative relations existing between people practising in the same professional occupation, but working within different organisation contexts of employment.


An interview study of 42 in‐house and external lawyers is reported and set within contexts of the knowledge management and internationalisation of legal services. The data are analysed from an appropriation‐learning perspective and then discussed for the extent that these two groups make similar claims to property in work.


The in‐house lawyers give highest priority to the protection of resources and knowledge and aim to achieve it through trust in work relationships and by sharing, diffusing and controlling knowledge. By contrast, issues concerning individual reward and empowerment were seen as lower priority. External lawyers attach similar importance to knowledge sharing, its diffusion and control, but have slightly less concern for protecting knowledge and resources. They place less emphasis on trust and seem to value empowerment through legal innovation more so than do the in‐house lawyers.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should be conducted on occupational and sub‐groups of knowledge workers to understand more systematically the dynamics of knowledge management, and the opportunities and constraints it creates for employees' property in work.


The research contributes to the literature on employees' property claims in work. It reflects on the extent that individuals' work identities must systematically adapt to different organisation contexts and approaches to knowledge management.



Pinnington, A.H., Kamoche, K. and Suseno, Y. (2009), "Property in knowledge work: an appropriation‐learning perspective", Employee Relations, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 57-80.

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