Professional Agency, Identity, and Emotions While Leaving One’s Work Organization


  • Katja Vähäsantanen University of Jyväskylä
  • Anneli Eteläpelto University of Jyväskylä



This study investigated the enactment of professional agency in an emotionally troubled work context emerging from a conflicted relationship between the professional and the work organization. Narrative interviews with Finnish educators were utilized. The findings indicate that the enactment of agency was in part framed by the educators’ rational interpretations of the relationship between themselves and their employer, plus their work history and future prospects. However, it was simultaneously embedded with contradictory emotions, such as a sense of being undervalued, fear, and a sense of empowerment. Within this framework, multifaceted professional agency was enacted particularly via leaving the organization. This was also a means of upholding one’s professional identity and resisting the organization’s work practices. The paper contributes to the theorizing of professional agency, particularly regarding its emotional dimension, and elaborates the significance of an emotional relationship between professionals and their organizations.

Keywords: career, educators, emotions, meaningful work, narrative research, professional agency, professional identity


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How to Cite

Vähäsantanen, K., & Eteläpelto, A. (2015). Professional Agency, Identity, and Emotions While Leaving One’s Work Organization. Professions and Professionalism, 5(3).




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