To See or Not to See: Importance of Sensemaking in Employee Self-direction

Keywords: Learning & Competencies, Innovation & Productivity, Organization & Management


Being self-directed is one of the most sought-after employee attributes. The present study examines managers’ approaches to and conceptualization of employee self-directedness through semi-structured interviews with 13 managers from five companies in the Stockholm area. Analysis suggests two different emphases in trying to increase self-direction, with differing underlying assumptions: an evaluation emphasis where self-direction is conceptualized as an inherent property of the individual, and a cultivation emphasis suggesting a more interactionist perspective of self- direction as an emergent behavior based on the interaction of individual and situational characteristics. Further, a ‘seeing work’-skill emerged in all interviews, implicating situational judgment and attention as core to what is ultimately seen as successful self-direction. Managers with a cultivation emphasis mentioned as viable tactics those focused on supporting sensemaking and thus enriching the working situation to enable better discretionary situational judgments

Author Biography

Gisela Bäcklander, KTH Royal Institute of Technology


PhD candidate, Industrial Economics and Management. E-mail:

How to Cite
Bäcklander, G. (2019). To See or Not to See: Importance of Sensemaking in Employee Self-direction. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 9(2).