This paper seeks to examine the identities and subjectivities of independent knowledge workers who contract their services to organizations. Two questions are addressed: who are these enterprising knowledge workers, in terms of how they understand and position themselves relative to organizational structures, practices and social relations in their work as “inside outsiders”? How do they recognize their own constitution, and what spaces for agency are possible?
The discussion draws upon a qualitative study of 18 self‐employed consultants in organizational change, analysing their articulations as ongoing constitutions within prescribed discourses and cultural technologies. Semi‐structured in‐depth interviews were analysed inductively to determine themes and silences among the narratives.
The argument shows how these subjectivities emerge from in‐between spaces, both inside and outside organizations. As they negotiate these spaces, they exercise agency by resisting control while building connections. These articulations are described as “network identities”.
The paper concludes with implications for organizations employing or contracting with such individuals. Suggestions for managers involve enabling more project structures, negotiating boundaries and purposes more clearly, providing more flexible conditions and facilitating more integration of these knowledge workers with other employees before, during and following innovative project activity.
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