What is it about?

We review the individual and organizational implications of gig work using the emerging psychological contract between gig workers and employing organizations as a lens. We first examine extant definitions of gig work and provide a conceptually clear definition. We then outline why both organizations and individuals may prefer gig work. In particular, organizations use digital algorithms to manage gig workers. In their turn, gig workers adapt to algorithmic management by balancing autonomy and dependence, managing their work identity, and crafting their gigs. Further, gig workers develop alternative professional and social relationships to work in blended teams assembled by organizations, adapt to social isolation at work, learn to be a “jack-of-all-trades”, learn to deal with pay volatility, and engage in self-development due to the lack of organizational training. Challenges associated with these practices and possible solutions are discussed, and we develop propositions for testing in future research.

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Why is it important?

We organize and integrate the nascent gig work literature. Currently, theory is limited, research is often descriptive, and there are conflicting definitions of the key phenomenon. First, we argue that psychological contract theory provides a useful conceptual framework for understanding changes in the employment relationships and their effects on the experiences of and responses to gig work. Second, we provide a grounding definition of gig work focused on how the work is done rather than the type of work being done. Third, we review the ways in which individuals adapt to the changed psychological contract (e.g., identity management, increased need for self-development). Finally, we provide a practical roadmap for present and future research.


I hope that this article makes a complex and abstract concept of gig work easier to understand and operationalize and thus paves a clear way for future research.

Dr. Ksenia Keplinger
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

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This page is a summary of: The organizational psychology of gig work: An integrative conceptual review., Journal of Applied Psychology, October 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/apl0001029.
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