In this new faculty seminar, Yao will introduce her work on professional workers participating in the online platform economy. After a brief overview of this line of research, Yao will focus on one project exploring the impacts of online platform-based legal services on lawyers’ professional identity.
With interviews and supplementary data, this project starts with a look at the differences between online platform-based legal work and offline, traditional legal work. The online-offline contrast in work content and client relations caused lawyers to form an online professional identity that diverges from their offline identity in two aspects: expertise valuation and status difference. Faced with this online-offline split in professional identity, lawyers adopt two different coping strategies: some lawyers decouple online and offline professional identities by employing two tactics—framing and distancing and tailoring work content; some lawyers restructure their offline professional identity to reconcile the split by using two different tactics—reframing professional ideals and modeling with other fields. This study also identified two professional identity dimensions—expertise specialization and service orientation vs. expert centrality—to underpin the strength of experienced professional identity split. Another dimension of professional identity, belief in professional dynamism, determines lawyers’ tendency towards different coping strategies, such that those who have a strong belief that their profession is dynamic and will keep changing tend to reconcile online-offline professional identity split.
Dr. Yao earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Relations and Human Resources from the University of Toronto and holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research seeks to understand changing workplaces as technological and institutional environments evolve. In particular, she is interested in the tensions between traditional workplace norms and characteristics of innovative work arrangements. Her current research program examines professional workers participating in online platform work, which received the Best Student Paper Award from the Canadian Industrial Relations Association and the UCIRHRP Best Paper Award. Prior to joining Telfer, Dr. Yao taught at Rotman School of Management, the University of Toronto. She also serves at the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Labour and Employment Relations Association.