Growing at work: Employees' interpretations of progressive self-change in organizations

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-570
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural construction of organizational life
  • Human resource management
  • Interpretation and sensemaking
  • Psychological processes
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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