Although there has been an increase in workplace studies on professional agency, few of these have examined the role of emotions in the enactment of agency at work. To date, professional agency has been mainly conceptualised as a goal-oriented, rational activity aimed at influencing a current state of affairs. Challenged by this, this study aims to elaborate the nature and quality of emotions and how they might be connected to the enactment of professional agency.
Data are collected in the context of a leadership coaching programme that aimed to promote the leaders’ professional agency over the course of a year. The participants (11 middle-management leaders working in university and hospital contexts) were interviewed before and after the programme, and the data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Findings showed that emotions played an important role in the leaders’ enactment of professional agency, as it pertained to their work and to their professional identity. The study suggests that enacting professional agency is by no means a matter of purely rational actions.
The study suggests that emotional agency can be learned and enhanced through group-based interventions reflecting on and processing one’s own professional roles and work.
As a theoretical conclusion, the study argues that professional agency should be reconceptualised in such a way as to acknowledge the importance of emotions (one’s own and those of one’s fellow workers) in practising agency within organisational contexts.
Hökkä, P., Vähäsantanen, K., Paloniemi, S., Herranen, S. and Eteläpelto, A. (2019), "Emotions in leaders’ enactment of professional agency", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 143-165. https://doi.org/10.1108/JWL-07-2018-0086
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