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The wicked problem of employee wellbeing: creating safe space within a change laboratory

Lawless, A and Willocks, K (2021) The wicked problem of employee wellbeing: creating safe space within a change laboratory. Action Learning: research and practice, 18 (2). pp. 121-135. ISSN 1476-7333

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This article sheds light on employee wellbeing, pre and during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. We reveal how an ‘adapted’ action learning intervention (a change laboratory) introduced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, enabled learning and action to emerge within an educational programme. We utilise the theoretical lens of activity theory to illustrate the challenges and tensions of promoting and sustaining an employee wellbeing agenda. Follow up questioning (Q) of key informants, using the insights (P - programmed knowledge) generated during the change laboratory provide evidence of learning (L). The longitudinal nature of this data provides evidence that learning and action continued to occur after the initial intervention. We explore employee wellbeing from a socio-cultural perspective and illustrate how action and learning are intertwined to produce goal-oriented outcomes. This socio-cultural perspective contributes to the theory of action learning by illuminating how activity is mediated by cultural means, the rules and tools operating in an activity system. This perspective provides a focus upon learning and agency in the workplace and supports a more complicated understanding of ‘wicked problems’, viewed as the challenges and tensions which emerge in practice as break-downs, clashes or problems (Edmonstone, Lawless & Pedler, 2019). The notion of a ‘safe space’ is central to action learning and we argue that these spaces must be protected if employee wellbeing is to become, and remain, integrated within an organisation activity system. Our article has practical implications for those who are responsible for the wellbeing of others.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1303 Specialist Studies in Education, 1503 Business and Management
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5001 Business
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Divisions: Doctoral Management Studies (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Routledge
Date Deposited: 07 May 2021 11:59
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2023 10:45
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/14767333.2021.1931808
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14960
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