Academic journal article Management Revue

Between Work and Non-Work: Institutional Settings of Boundary Management in Case of German Self-Employed Lawyers **

Academic journal article Management Revue

Between Work and Non-Work: Institutional Settings of Boundary Management in Case of German Self-Employed Lawyers **

Article excerpt

Introduction

Boundary theory (Nippert-Eng, 1996a) is the most popular conceptual frame in the research field of work-family conflicts. Drawing on the social-constructivist tradition, this theoretical school regards "work" and "home" not as domains existing in their own way, but mainly as socio-cognitive classification categories, created and used by individuals in order to make the social world meaningful (Nippert-Eng, 1996b, p. 564). One of the most relevant concepts provided by the boundary theory is the idea of "boundary work" which points to strategies and practices used "to create, maintain and modify cultural categories" and to negotiate boundaries between them (NippertEng, 1996a, p. 8). Since boundary theory promises to provide plausible explanations for how employees and their employers manage conflicting work and family requirements by creating, interpreting and negotiating boundaries between those domains, it has been extensively used in empirical studies in the last two decades (e.g. Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep., 2006, 2009). Despite its wide acceptance in empirical research, there are also critical voices addressing conceptual shortcomings of the boundary theory. In their recent work, Piszczek and Berg (2014) attest current applications of boundary theory a clear tendency towards individualism and see their blind spot in a missing link between boundary work and institutional settings considered. The authors point to the fact that research studies surrounding boundary theory overemphasize individual efforts in creating and negotiating boundaries between work and life, whereas institutional contexts, such as legal regulations, normative institutions or strategic arrangements in the firms have been mainly ignored, both empirically and conceptually (Piszczek & Berg, 2014, p. 1495).

There is an additional shortcoming of the literature on boundary management between work and non-work domains which potentially hampers an in-depth consideration of institutional settings: Most empirical studies focus on employees of organizations, with boundary working of self-employed persons being addressed in only few studies up to now (e.g. Berke, 2003; Myrie & Daly, 2009). Additionally, an in-depth consideration of institutional settings framing boundary work of the self-employed is still mainly missed. Having in mind that both domains - work and non-work - stand in case of self-employed persons in a structural conflict, with working time representing billable hours and time for non-work exemplifying income-free time (Rybnikova, Krätzel, & Schmidt., 2011), it could be assumed that the ways of balancing both domains have sensible economic consequences for self-employed individuals. The ignorance of scholars towards institutional settings while dealing with boundary management in general or in the special case of self-employed persons represents a serious research shortcoming.

In the present study, we follow the call for considering institutional settings of boundary management between work and non-work domains as proposed by Piszczek and Berg (2014). In contrast to Piszczek and Berg (2014), who focus in their study exclusively on traditional employment, we consider boundary work of selfemployed lawyers. Since lawyers have been considered by scholars as a legally highly institutionalized and "demanding" occupation (Kreiner et al., 2009, p. 707), empirical investigation of this occupational group promises a fruitful underpinning of the link between the concepts of boundary work and institutional settings. The research question we are dealing with in this study is thus: Which institutional elements are of particular importance for boundary management practices of self-employed lawyers and what kind of dealing with these institutional constrains could be obtained in this occupational group while managing boundaries between work and non-work domains? Consequently, the present study first aims at the mapping of institutional, in particular occupational, settings which shape boundary management practices among selfemployed German lawyers and, second, at exploring the links between institutional settings and boundary work in the group studied. …

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