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Title: "I sometimes question myself" : the learning trajectories of four senior managers as they confronted changing demands at work
Author: Leal, Tatiana Rodriguez
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 2019
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This study explores the learning trajectories of four senior managers at the Royal Mail as they confronted new demands at work. These four managers worked at the Royal Mail during the years prior to, and during its privatisation, when it was also undergoing an intense modernisation. Theoretically, I took a sociocultural approach, drawing on Vygotsky (1998), Edwards (2010), Holland et al. (1998), and Sfard and Prusak (2005), among others. I was also provoked by Alasdair MacIntyre's characterisation of the manager and his understanding of practice, which emphasises human ourishing. Data was collected through iterative unstructured and semi-structured interviews, and by work shadowing the managers. Methodologically, I developed a useful interview protocol to capture stories about work and a more nuanced understanding of what mattered to participants. I also built a conceptual framework that draws theoretically from a sociocultural understanding of learning and development, as well as from MacIntyre (2013) and Taylor (1989). e model emerged from the dialectics of theory and empirical data. The research shows that as the Royal Mail underwent organisational change, the managers had to navigate situations of misalignment between what mattered to them and what mattered to other members of the organisation. Such situations of misalignment brought about new demands. As they confronted the demands, the managers realised the need to close a gap between who they were and who they were expected to become. Gap-closing efforts were characterised as a process of learning and development that involved intense identity work. In the process, the managers had to work through a series of contradictions, which can be expressed in the form of questions: Who am I really? Who should I no longer be? Who do I resist becoming? And, who do I struggle to become? Gap-closing was given by a dialectic between the managers' commitments and identi cations, and the stories of what was good in the gured world of managing at the Royal Mail. Contrary to some of MacIntyre's suggestions, I found that the four managers in the study, Linda, Eric, Margaret and Julian did question themselves about some of the ends they pursued. ey also exhibited varying degrees of agency, and did establish a distance with the impositions of their institutional realities. In the eld, I found instances of moral debate, the exercising of virtues and the managers' very human efforts to live a worthy life and to ourish. Yet, I also found empirical grounds for some of MacIntyre's claims. As the managers navigated misalignment, they used an array of strategies intended to persuade others in a manipulative way, sometimes treating ends as given, and sometimes eluding moral debate. The study contributes to the literature of learning and development through its original theoretical approach that draws from both sociocultural and MacIntyrean ideas.
Supervisor: Fancourt, Nigel ; Relly, Susan James ; Edwards, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; Management ; Learning at the workplace ; sociocultural theory ; Alasdair MacIntyre ; Identity work ; Adult development