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Emotions in leaders’ enactment of professional agency

Päivi Hökkä (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Katja Vähäsantanen (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Susanna Paloniemi (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Sanna Herranen (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Anneli Eteläpelto (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 1 April 2019

Issue publication date: 8 April 2019

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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

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.

Practical implications

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.

Originality/value

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.

Keywords

Citation

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

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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