Curtin University (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN13 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 3913-3922
ISBN: 978-84-616-3822-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2013
Location: Barcelona, Spain
This paper is explores relationships in the workplace from the vantage point of managers as they report relationship development with employees. Changes in organizing such that structural and institutional methods of organizing are, say Albert et al (2000, p.13) not so reliable and more dependent on “the heads and hearts of its members”. The paper is organized by first introducing the need for more understanding of social psychological processes, supportive learning environments and practical ways in which organizations can further the development of positive workplace relationships using insights from managers’ conversations on relationships. This is followed by critical literature on power and control as inhibitors of co-participative relationship development. Next structuration theory (Giddens 1984) is discussed as acknowledging the socially constitutive role of employees as they interface with managers. This is followed by Rousseau’s (1998) situated as opposed to deep structure organizational identification and the case made for situated identification. The research case and method, including sample, data collection and analysis are then presented followed by results. The contribution to advance understanding of relational workplace learning is a suggested ‘structurated learning space’ framework where formal recognition of employees’ constitutive capability can be recognized. The paper concludes with limitations and suggestions for a future research agenda.

Within the case environment, two interesting organizational changes were identified. The first was structural change to a team structure throughout the organization. The second was a requirement that every employee learned the nature of the business to inform decisions at every level ‘for the good of the business’. This was a reversal of traditional management means and ends in the sense that the traditional means of achieving performance in this organization were connected to pay and conditions. This was now replaced by a people focus, recognizing social psychological processes such as agency and commitment as drivers of performance. This decision put the need for relationship skills in sharp focus and as such offered opportunities for studying how managers and team leaders, with varied experiences and skills, went about developing relationships, both learning from them and passing learning along. The research method adopted a constructivist ontology, interpretive epistemology and qualitative methodology (Creswell 2007). A Glaserian version of grounded theory was chosen (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Glaser 1998; Rowland and Parry 2009) allowing systematic coding, constant comparison and theoretical sensitivity. Emergent themes included Communication, Honesty and Trust, Values, Involvement and Commitment, Ownership and Autonomous Decisions. Implications for workplace learning were identified. The constructs, power/control, structuration theory and situated identification prompted a need for a more ‘formally informal’ (Marsick 2009) organizationally designed learning environment. Drawing on Nonaka and Toyama’s (2000) ‘Ba’ system and SECI process along with Owen (2008) and Elenurm’s (2012) model of open space technology, a framework for a ‘structurated learning space’ is presented where managers and employees can co-participate in relationship development.
Workplace learning, Relationship Development, Structurated Learning Space.