Negotiating Liminal Roles: Analysing the Interstructural Positionality of Management Interns

Farooq Mughal, Uzair Shah, Carolyn Downs

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Through our narratological approach driven by grounded research, we present a theory of interstructural positionality. In this paper, we explore how management interns experience positional shifts, and in so doing, negotiate the role dynamics of working in a transitory space. Our study contributes to literature on education-to-work transitions by exploring changes in subjective positioning of undergraduate business students during an interstructural journey across domains, i.e. internships, which we consider as a liminal period for students-as-interns that disrupts established patterns of identity and internship work. An inductive analysis of 154 students’ year-long reflective diaries, as part of a work placement programme at a UK business school, shows three interstructural positions as a coping mechanism: confused outsiders, regulated adapters and recognized insiders in responding to internship work. Findings also contribute to scholarship on management learning and education by illustrating how business school students learn from liminal role experiences and resolve identity misalignment arising as a result of a break in self-conceptions and internship ideals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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