The reciprocal relationship between emotions and agency in the workplace

Päivi Kristiina Hökkä, Katja Vähäsantanen, Susanna Paloniemi, Anneli Eteläpelto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In conjunction with a growing interest in professional agency, there is a need to understand how emotions are embedded in agentic practice. This chapter examines the emotions bound up with work and how these emotions are related to professional agency. The subjects of our study were leaders (middle management) and employees working in Finnish education and health-care organisations. A qualitative meta-synthesis was conducted to describe the relationship between professional agency and emotions. The study revealed a variety of emotions, including fear and enjoyment, related to professional identity, work, and social relationships. Among both employees and leaders, emotions were found to play an important role in the enactment of agency. Negative emotions seemed to trigger the enactment of professional agency regarding one’s professional career and work practices, while positive emotions activated agency in terms of renegotiating professional identities. On a reciprocal basis, the enactment of agency seemed to foster positive emotions. Weak agency, for its part, seems to arouse negative emotions. The study suggests that the relationships between professional learning, agency, and emotions seem likely to provide avenues for research in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgency at Work
Subtitle of host publicationAn Agentic Perspective on Professional Learning and Development
EditorsMichael Goller, Susanna Paloniemi
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-60943-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-60942-3, 978-3-319-86964-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameProfessional and Practice-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2210-5549
ISSN (Electronic)2210-5557


  • Collective agency
  • Emotions
  • Meta-synthesis
  • Professional agency
  • Professional identity
  • Subject-centred sociocultural approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Education


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