Study title
Participation in work-oriented society under conditions of increasing work flexibility: Does a less continuity-oriented personal identity help?
Ref study 7825
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Identity
  • Work flexibility
  • Psychological contract
  • Competence development
  • Career development
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
Existing research on the relationship between work and identity under conditions of increasing work flexibility has provided equivocal results on the threats and challenges for personal identity development within less continuous professional careers. New types of employment-related behaviour have been demanded, such as self-control, self-economisation, and self-rationalisation contained in the concept of "entreployee", in order to conform to requirements stemming from less stable, but also more autonomy-oriented, employment relationships. Some evidence for this new type of employee behaviour has been found, with questions arising about positive and negative effects for the individual having to handle employment risk more, while at the same time also being able to more autonomously organize work and life. Similarly, research on psychological contracts - as direct expression of the reciprocal expectations and obligations by employee and employer - in firms with high work flexibility has shown that employees only partially can gain from offers of competence development and delegation of responsibilities for their own personal development in compensation for increased job insecurity. Interestingly, it seems that those employees can gain more who conform to a traditional, i.e. very continuous, model of work biography and identity. This seeming inconsistency motivates the proposed study, in which hypotheses about different fits between more and less fluid identities in more and less traditional work settings will be explored in a longitudinal investigation. Also, individuals with a higher vs. lower level of personal resources in term of socio-economic status and qualification will be included in the sample in order to further test the assumption that work flexibility might mainly bear opportunities for those with high levels of personal resources for coping with instability and employment risk. A sample of about 250 individuals, equally distributed across these three factors (continuity-oriented vs. non-continuity-oriented identity; employment in one organization with medium to high level of flexibility vs. patchwork employment; low socio-economic status/very little formal vocational training vs. medium socio-economic status/formal vocation or professional training) will be studied in three waves by means of a questionnaire comprising questions on personal identity (biographical continuity, ecological consistency, control orientation, self-esteem), work biography, competence development, and psychological contract. The questions on personal identity will be used to assign the individuals to the two identity types "continuity-oriented" vs. "non-continuity-oriented", which are based on previous own research. Additionally, background information on the organizations, in which the individuals are employed, will be collected in order to determine the degree of flexibility, elements of the psychological contract from the employer's perspective, and measures for competence development undertaken in the companies. The longitudinal approach will permit to form and test predictions about coping patterns by different groups in the sample in view of demands arising from work flexibility, leading to a better understanding of personal, organizational and societal prerequisites for a sound personal identity development.
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Raeder, Sabine; Wittekind, A.; Grote, Gudela. 2008. The development of personal identity in the context of organisational change. In: Roe, R.; Waller, M.; Clegg, S. (Eds.), "Time in Organizational Research: Approaches and Methods". London: Routledge, pp. 148-163.
  • Raeder, Sabine; Grote, Gudela. 2008. Berufliche Identität und Flexibilität: Lassen sich Vergangenheit und Zukunft verbinden?. In: Hirschi, A.; Läge, D. (Hrsg.), "Berufliche Übergänge. Psychologische Grundlagen der Berufs-, Studien- und Laufbahnberatung". Münster/Zürich: LIT, S. 213-226.
  • Raeder, Sabine. 2007. Der psychologische Vertrag als personalpolitisches Instrument für die Zielgruppe der älteren Beschäftigten. In: Kaune, P.; Rützel, J.; Spöttl, G. (Hrsg.), "Berufliche Bildung, Innovation und Soziale Integration". Dokumentation der 14. Hochschultage für Berufliche Bildung (S. Workshop 15, S. 75-86). Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann Verlag.
  • Wittekind, A.; Abrach, A.; Raeder, Sabine. 2007. Employability-Förderung als Chance zum Neubeginn. In: HR Today, 9(6), 26-27.
  • Wittekind, A.; Raeder, Sabine; Widmer, N.; Inauen, A.; Grote, Gudela. 2005. Flexible Arbeit und Beschäftigungsbeziehung: Erwartungen bei "Patchworkern" eher erfüllt. In: Persorama, 29(4), 60-63.
Unpublished documents
  • Eggli, A.. 2006. Arbeitsmarktfähigkeit unter Bedingungen erhöhter Flexibilisierung von Arbeitsverhältnissen. Lizentiatsarbeit, Universität Zürich (betreut von A. Wittekind und S. Raeder).
  • Inauen, A.. 2005. Inhalte und Fairness psychologischer Verträge bei flexiblen Arbeitsverhältnissen, insbesondere Patchworkern. Lizentiatsarbeit, Universität Zürich (betreut von S. Raeder und A. Wittekind). Online:
  • Widmer, N.. 2005. Patchworker. Quantitative Bestimmung und qualitative Validierung von Patchworkertypen sowie deren Profile von Selbstwert und Burnout. Lizentiatsarbeit, Universität Zürich (betreut von S. Raeder und A. Wittekind). Online:
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 08.05.2015
Date modified 08.05.2015
Start - End date 01.01.2004 - 28.03.2007