Table of Contents

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Challenges and Experiences

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland

How is the world of professions and professional work changing? This book offers both an overview of current debates surrounding the nature of professional work, and the implications for change brought about by the managerialist agenda. The relationships professionals have with their organizations are variable, indeterminate and uncertain, and there is still debate over the ways in which these should be characterized and theorized. The contributors discuss these implications with topics including hybrid organizations and hybrid professionalism; the changing nature of professional and managerial work; profession and identity; and the emergence of HRM as a new managerial profession.

Chapter 1: The changing world of professions and professional workers

Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


There seems to be broad agreement that the lives of professional workers are undergoing significant change; in one sense it was ever thus. However, today we see a combination of globalization, deregulation, managerialism, a decline in public trust and more knowledgeable consumers having changed the context within which professions operate (Adams, 2014; Leicht and Fennell, 2001; Cohen et al., 2002; Dent and Whitehead, 2002; Reed, 2000). One perspective is that these changes are having a particular effect in that they are undermining the power and status of professional workers. As Powell et al. (1999: 4) note: ‘The common thread is a set of professional values, beliefs and aspirations woven into the very fabric of professional firms and organisations’. In this book we take a broad approach and consider professions from a macro level, an organizational level and an individual level in order to include the agency of actors (Macdonald, 1995; Larson, 1990; Wallace, 1995). The themes of our edited collection reflect these broad interests. Recent interests of scholars in this field include an attempt to distinguish between traditional professions (occupational professions) and managerial professions (organizational professionalism) (for example, Evetts, 2013). Furthermore, it has been proposed that the analysis of professions has largely been linked to occupational closure, social stratification and exclusion, and state formation, but in more recent times a new research focus around the organizational dimension of expert work, and a focus on the professional service firm (PSF) and its management are attracting increasing attention from academics (Muzio and Kirkpatrick, 2011).