January 25, 2018

10:00-11:00 a.m.

Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.

Of Sherpas and Shamans: On being navigational guides in times of lostness

Talk description:
Can you think of times when you felt lost at work? Who did you turn to – a mentor? a colleague? your boss? How did they help you navigate your lostness?

Lostness is a common psychological experience but an undertheorized phenomenon in organizational literature. In this ongoing work, I explore the psychological experience of lostness among undergraduate students at an elite public institution and the navigational work academic advisors do in helping restore students’ agency and sense of direction.

Drawing on interviews with academic advisors (N=17) and field-observations of student-advisor appointments, I develop a temporally-embedded process model that highlights the sensemaking-sensegiving involved in successfully navigating the student through lostness. Conceptualizing lostness as a loss of agency and direction, I find that restoring students’ agency and sense of direction involves a three-part process – situating the student, reimagining horizons of possibility, and creating a roadmap.

Time is important to this process in two ways. One, time structures action. There are certain things advisors do before the appointment, certain things during, and certain things after. Two, time orients action. Advisors simultaneously take into account the student’s past, present and future in providing the appropriate advice or orientation. In the context of organizations, this work sheds light on the sensemaking-sensegiving work possibly involved in mentor-protégé relationships.

Mrudula Nujella is a doctoral student in Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Her research interests include relationships and human connection, and the relational work involved in building connections of care. Mrudula has a Bachelors and Masters in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and a graduate diploma in liberal studies from Ashoka University, New Delhi.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubator here and direct questions about individual sessions to Amy Young at baldwin@umich.edu.