The uncertainty challenge of contingent collaboration

Jennifer Claire Auer, Chen Yu Kao, Libby Hemphill, Erik Johnston, Stephanie D. Teasley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Contingent knowledge workers will play an increasingly important role in organisational success as workers transition in and out of project-based innovation teams with more frequency. Our research finds that collaborators in the contingent, high-skill workforce face uncertainty challenges to their work that are unique from the independent, contingent professionals more often studied. The article proposes a theoretical framework of uncertainty to guide us in understanding collaborative contingent knowledge workers' work experience. Interviews with postdoctoral researchers reveal four findings about the influence of these highly uncertain work environments on collaborative contingent knowledge workers - collaboration isolation, frustrated independence, performance anxiety and internalised blame. Perhaps most concerning is that the workers internalise the negative impacts as personal failings instead of recognising them as consequences of a poorly designed work environment. This study argues for the need to manage and mitigate different sources of uncertainty to avoid creating an unnecessary burden on contingent knowledge workers, and to enable a sustainable, contingent knowledge workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-547
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Contingent workers
  • Knowledge workers
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'The uncertainty challenge of contingent collaboration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this