01 SES 07C, Resilience and Emotional Challenges Facing Teachers
Rerecent research has shown that emotions play a significant role in workplace settings, organizational behavior, and leadership (Gooty et al.,2010). Despite the increase in research in the area, little work has been done on emotional aspects as they pertain to the professional agency of employees and leaders in working life. So far, professional agency has been understood mainly in terms of rational, cognitively-based actions, encompassing goal-oriented activity aimed at influencing a current state of affairs (e.g. Harteis & Goller, 2014). What is now needed is an understanding of how emotions are embedded in agentic practice in work contexts. Thus, this study aims to acquire an elaborated understanding of employees’ and leaders’ emotions and of how they relate to professional agency. We utilized five previous empirical studies conducted by the authors. These did illustrate distinct aspects of professional agency and emotions, but they did not provide a comprehensive, overarching picture of the emotions, or of the relationships that might exist between them. Hence, through a multilevel meta-synthesis (e.g. Sandelowski & Barroso, 2006) of the findings from these primary studies, we shall endeavor to set out the interconnections between professional agency and emotions, in the work of employees and leaders (Hökkä, Vähäsantanen, Paloniemi & Eteläpelto, 2017).
In general, it is no coincidence that notions of emotions have emerged strongly (e.g. Gooty et al., 2010), given the constantly changing landscape of societies and organizations, with concomitant challenges to organizational practices, individual employees, and leaders. In particular in human-centered work (such as in education and health-care) emotions are seen as an integral part of the work. In organizational studies, one notable trend has been to examine the role of both positive and negative emotions in work contexts (Barsade & Gibson, 2007). A crucial aspect has turned out to be the ability to express and regulate positive and negative emotions. Positive emotions have been seen to support leader effectiveness and the performance of personnel. Displays of positive emotions by leaders evoke positive emotions in others, through processes of emotional contagion (Barsade & Gibson, 2007). The significance of negative emotions has proven to be more complex than in the case of positive emotions. Negative emotions affect leader-subordinate relationships through the spread of negative energy among a group (Aquino et al., 2004). However, emotions that can be labelled as negative can lead also to constructive actions, for example by energizing people to oppose unfair situations within organizations (e.g. Clancy et al., 2012).
In theoretical terms, professional agency includes the idea that people are active beings, exercising at least some degree of control over their lives (Biesta & Tedder, 2007). Agency often refers to subjects’ purposeful decisions and intentional actions; hence the concept of agency includes notions of power and influence (Vähäsantanen, 2015). Such influence can be directed at one’s work, career, and identity, and further to institutional and societal circumstances. In our study we adopt the theoretical ideas associated with the subject-centered socio-cultural approach (Eteläpelto et al., 2013). This views professional agency as enacted by both individuals and groups; the enactment takes place through influencing, through making choices and decisions, and through taking stances in ways that affect individual and collective professional identity and work practices.
In order to investigate emotions within education and health care organizations, looking in particular at the relationships between emotions and professional agency, we posed the following research questions:
- What kinds of emotions can be identified in the accounts of educators (employees) and leaders in connection with their work?
- What is the relationship between the emotions identified and the enactment of agency in the work?
Aquino, K., Douglas, S., & Martinko, M. J. (2004). Overt anger in response to victimization: Attributional style and organizational norms as moderators. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 9, pp. 152-164. Barsade, S., & Gibson, D. (2007). Why does affect matter in organizations? Academy of Management Perspectives, 21, pp. 36-59. Biesta, G., & Tedder, M. (2007). Agency and learning in the life course: Towards an ecological perspective. Studies in the Education of Adults 39(2), pp. 132−149. Clancy, A., Vince, R., & Gabriel, Y. (2012). The unwanted feeling: A psychodynamic study of disappointment in organizations. British Journal of Management, 23, pp. 518-531. Eberly, M., & Fong, C. (2013). Leading via the heart and mind: The roles of leader and follower emotions, attributions and interdependence. The Leadership Quarterly, 24(5), pp. 696-711. Eteläpelto, A., Vähäsantanen, K., Hökkä, P., & Paloniemi, S. (2013). What is agency? Cozeptualizing professional agency at work. Educational Research Review, 10, pp. 45-65. Gooty, J., Connelly, S., Griffith, J. & Gupta, A. (2010). Leadership, affect and emotions: A state of the science review. The Leadership Quarterly, 21, pp. 979-1004. Harteis, C., & Goller, M. (2014). New skills for new jobs: Work agency as a necessary condition for successful lifelong learning. In S. Billett, T. Halttunen, & M. Koivisto (Eds.), Promoting, assessing, recognizing and certifying lifelong learning: International perspectives and practices (pp. 37–56). Dordrecht: Springer. Hökkä, P., Vähäsantanen, K., Paloniemi, S., & Eteläpelto, A. (forthcoming, accepted). The reciprocal relationship between emotions and agency in the workplace. In M. Goller & S. Paloniemi (Eds.), Agency at Work. Dordrecht: Springer. Sandelowski, M., & Barroso, J. (2006). Handbook for Synthesizing Qualitative Research. New York: Springer Publishing Company. Vähäsantanen, K. (2015). Professional agency in the stream of change: Understanding educational change and teachers' professional identities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 47, pp. 1-12.
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