The substantive body of marginal and fringe workers

Marginal Fringe Workers

Marginal and fringe workers are kept on the sidelines, excluded from company benefit plans and access to corporate decision-making power. However, non-standard workers often hail from erudite backgrounds. Many are well educated, some with higher degrees and all have much to offer their coworkers and the economy as a whole. Nonstandard workers (including part-time, temporary, and contract workers) make up as much as 25% of the labor force in the United States (Ditsler, Fisher & Gordon 2005). If mothers and fathers who stay at home with their children are included then that number may increase further (Perkin 1996). Boris & Deguili (2003) call marginalized workers “the new norm.”

Active engagement of the substantive body of marginal and fringe workers will prove beneficial for any organization or community. A plan of activities designed to engage the creativity and alternative voices of marginal workers will include several key elements. Some of the proposed activities apply to one or more of the labor groups that can be classified as marginal or fringe. These activities can be applied to a training scenario.

Specific activities include the following. First, focus groups will help leaders discern the most compelling and crucial issues facing fringe and marginal workers in the current labor market. For example, some part-time employees might find that their work week falls just short of that of their full-time counterparts. Yet their lack of company benefits and lack of input into company procedures prevents them from reaching their full potential. Health care, alienation, wages, and other issues should be discussed to discover which are the most commonly raised problems and concerns.

Second, traditional employees including coworkers and supervisors as well as company managers should be brought into the discussion. Creating dialogue and establishing communication are the core goals of this proposed activity plan. Finally, the implementation of the activity plan over the course of three months will actively engage marginal workers with their standard counterparts. The sometimes aberrant voices of marginal workers might raise issues common to all employees, and could ultimately help an organization thrive.

MONTH ONE: Focus Groups

A. Focus group with marginal and fringe workers only.

1. Brainstorming session in which all issues are raised.

2. Distillation of the issues into core categories

3. Emphasis on suggestions for improvement

B. Focus group with permanent employees, supervisors, managers, and company executives only.

1. Introduction of topic.

2. Discussion of personal views, biases, prejudices, and opinions of marginal and fringe workers.

3. Emphasis on what coworkers and supervisors believe the relationship between the organization and its fringe workers should be.

C. Collective focus group, engaging both marginal and traditional workers.

1. Mediated discussion based on the issues raised in focus groups A and B.

2. Pairing off one marginal worker per one traditional worker for more intimate engagement and discussion of issues.

3. Collect and summarize data for application.

MONTH TWO: Application of data

A. Create pairings of one fringe worker and one standard worker.

1. Regular email and/or text messages for frequent communication.

2. The pair shares insight from their perspective on how fringe workers can be empowered.

B. All managers and supervisors devise at least one way to offer greater political power or decision-making authority to one or more marginal workers in the firm.

C. Apply ideas offered by fringe and marginal workers into the workplace, and have supervisors or managers monitor progress.

D. Use new technology to enhance communications between marginal workers and the organization.

1. Smart phone/PDA integration between marginal workers and the organization.

2. Emails and other more formal communications

E. Possible contract revisions to encourage empowerment of fringe and marginal employees.

MONTH THREE: Evaluation of data

A. Interviews with marginal and fringe workers. Emphasis on job satisfaction outcomes.

B. Interviews with standard/traditional workers, supervisors, and managers. Emphasis on perceived progress and quality of communications and cohesiveness.

C. Quantitative measures including any changes in earnings or turnover rates.


Boris, E. & Deguili, F. (2003). Nonstandard Work, Nonstandard Workers. Labour/Le Travail. Retrieved July 23, 2009 from

Ditsler, E., Fisher, P. & Gordon, C. (2005). On the Fringe: The Substandard Benefits of Workers in Part-Time, Temporary, and Contract Jobs. The Commonwealth Fund. Retrieved July 23, 2009 from–The-Substandard-Benefits-of-Workers-in-Part-Time–Temporary — and-Contract-Jobs.aspx

Perkin, H.J. (1996). “The Outsiders: Fringe Workers, Women, and Minorities.” In The Third Revolution. Pp. 167-170.

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