Positive Institutional Work: Exploring Institutional Work Through the Lens of Positive Organizational Scholarship

Despite its emancipatory ambitions and its rich portraits of agency, the institutional work literature has been criticized for its limited engagement with questions of normative social purpose. Synthesizing the literature on institutional work and on positive organizational scholarship, in this article I define positive institutional work as the creation or maintenance of institutional patterns that express mutually constitutive experiential and social goods. This synthesis expands existing theories of institutional work in three ways. It introduces the concept of experiential legitimacy and suggests that experiential surfacing may be a foundational aspect of positive institutional work. It offers collaborative inquiry as a largely overlooked solution to the paradox of embedded agency and explores such inquiry as a primary mode of positive agency. And it argues that positive institutional stability rests upon work aimed at making group boundaries and material practices more inclusive. Taken together, these three themes suggest new theoretical and practical directions for further inquiry into the relationship between institutional work and social purpose. They also contribute to the positive organizational scholarship literature’s implicit institutional ambitions by articulating a more socially embedded vision of positive organizational practices.

Journal or Publication:
Academy of Management Review
Year Published
Relevant Principles:
Download Attachment:
 PDF Download