Joanne Sundet and Arne Carlsen
How can people in organizations be relational agents for creating better workplaces? We explore this question based on data from an educational program where executives experimented with a range of strategies for fostering high-quality connections at work. Beyond immediate rewards of being able to create more quality and energy in their relations, we unexpectedly noted the emergence of a more foundational capacity in some of the executives. We understand this as the growth of relational agency; a reflexive and purposive capacity to initiate and carry out actions for improving relationships in the workplace. Based on a sample of seven cases we describe how such agency may be manifest in three ways: (1) being able to turn around situations; (2) lifting individual others; and (3) building collective capacity for positively influencing work relations more broadly. Relational agency has both collective and individual elements. It is anchored in a self-understanding that points back at a repertoire of previous experiences, points forward to a sense of what is desirable and possible and unfolds as a creative capacity in the contingencies of the moment.