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Hybrid Professionals in the professional services firm - developing expertise in others (e.g. management or policy) to deal with environmental pressures.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Allan
    Dr Chandana Alawattage
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Existing research looks at professionals who have taken on managerial roles and/or responsibilities and problematizes the conflicting logics (managerial/commercial and professional) that apply in circumstances of institutional complexity (when different and competing logics are at play) (Noordegraaf, 2007, p. e.g.; Mcgivern et al., 2015). Noordefraaf (2007) describes “hybrid professionalism” as an expression of the professional qualified in one area but who develops expertise in others (e.g. management or policy) to deal with environmental pressures. Such professionals are said to take on competencies outside their core area, and have the capacity to play a bridging role between managerial/commercial imperatives and those of their “home” logic (professionalism as understood within the given profession). McGivern et al (2015) categorised these “hybrid professionals” as either “incidental”, being temporary hybrids who act to strategically in relation to managerial logics so as to protect professionalism, or “willing”, who “develop more permanent and enduring professional-managerial identities” (Blomgren and Waks, 2015, p. 83). McPherson and Sauder (2013) highlight the agency of actors from different institutional backgrounds in using different logics as tools, tactically moving away from their “home” logics so as to “hijack” the logics of other institutional actors, all to achieve their preferred ends.

Blomgren and Waks (2015) focused on professionals with a great deal of experience in management roles and politically governed systems. The hybrids in their study were described as examples of “blended hybridization” where “practices based on different logics combined into the work of one professional” (2015, p. 97) .Such hybrid professionals, while “anchored” in a professional logic were “also embedded in organizational/managerial as well as democratic logics”. They were “embedded in the logics of professionalism, management and democracy” (p94), and regarded as “legitimate by a broad range of people”. In their study they showed how issues based in one logic were, at different phases in the process, translated into problems with solutions in another logic. Pragmatism abound.

Work on hyrbrids to date has focussed on the public sector. However, within the private professional services firm (PSF) senior management (Chairman/Managing Partner) and middle management (Department/Divisional heads) may, at certain times, be called upon to find a balance between professional and other logics, or translate one to another. They can therefore be said to be acting in conditions of institutional complexity.

This gives rise to certain questions that the proposed research will address:

1. What competing logics are at play in the management of the PSF and what tensions arise?
2. How do senior and middle managers experience these tensions?
3. For example, in the case of middle managers, are they:
3.1 asked to apply the policies/decisions of senior management (or management boards) while also having to maintain relations with
colleagues in their department/divisions?
3.2 the medium of compliance/enforcement and also the targets for feedback/complaint?
4. How do they reconcile the competing interests and associated logics?
4.1 What resources do they draw on?
4.2 Do they act as hybrids and if so how?
4.3 Do they see themselves as hybrids, incidental or willing?
4.4 What does this tell us about hybridization in the PSF and how, if at all, is it distinct from hybridization in the public sector professions?
5. How does this affect their identities?

The research will require that the PhD student arranges access to the relevant firms and people.

Funding Notes

Applicants interested in this research project should submit a more detailed research proposal (of a maximum of 2000 words)

This project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas. Selection will be made on academic merit.


Blomgren, M. and Waks, C. (2015) ‘Coping with contradictions: hybrid professionals managing institutional complexity’, Journal of Professions and Organization, 2(1), pp. 78–102. doi: 10.1093/jpo/jou010.
Mcgivern, G. et al. (2015) ‘Hybrid Manager–Professionals’ Identity Work: The Maintenance and Hybridization of Medical Professionalism in Managerial Contexts’, Public Administration, 93(2), pp. 412–432. doi: 10.1111/padm.12119.
McPherson, C. M. and Sauder, M. (2013) ‘Logics in Action: Managing Institutional Complexity in a Drug Court’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 58(2), pp. 165–196. doi: 10.1177/0001839213486447.
Noordegraaf, M. (2007) ‘From “Pure” to “Hybrid” Professionalism: Present-Day Professionalism in Ambiguous Public Domains’, Administration & Society, 39(6), pp. 761–785. doi: 10.1177/0095399707304434.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 13.30

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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