Growing at Work: Employees’ Interpretations of Progressive Self-Change in Organizations

By: Scott Sonenshein, Jane Dutton, Adam Grant, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

Sonenshein, S., Dutton, J., Grant, A., Spreitzer, G., Sutcliffe, K. 2012. Growing at Work: Interpretations of Progressive Self-Change in Organizations. Organization Science, 24(2): 552-570.


We develop theory about how growing at work is an interpretive accomplishment in which individuals sense that they are making progressive self-change. Through a study of how employees interpret themselves as growing at three organizations, we develop a theoretical account of how employees draw from contextual and personal resources to interpret their growing in ways that embed their idiosyncratic experiences within an organization. The data suggest that employees develop three different types of growing self-construals: achieving, learning, and helping. We use our data to ground theory that explains the development of growing self-construals as deeply embedded in organizations. At the same time, we suggest that growing self-construals reflect individual agency through how individuals work with available resources to weave interpretations of themselves into their growing self-construals. We further suggest that growing self-construals influence the actions employees take to support a sense of progressive self-change.