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From flexibility to work-life balance: Exploring the changing discourses of management consultants

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrea Whittle



What is the role of management consultants in the diffusion of fashionable ideas? This paper addresses this question by drawing on an ethnographic study of management consultants in the UK. The study examined how the consultants made sense of a newly emerging discourse of work-life balance. Using the metaphor of a `bandwagon', the study reveals the shifting interpretations of the work-life balance discourse as the consultants found themselves `riding alongside', `cashing in', `steering', `steering clear of' and `falling off' the bandwagon. These findings question the idea that fashion-setters always `jump on' to fashion bandwagons, thereby acting as passive channels in the diffusion of popular discourses. Instead, the study highlights the similarities between fashion-setters and their audiences in the reflexive and strategic ways in which discourses can be interpreted, enacted and appropriated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whittle A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2008

Volume: 15

Issue: 4

Pages: 513-534

Date deposited: 24/04/2015

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1350508408091005


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