LILA ~ Learning Innovations Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Looking for content and documents from our Gatherings? Login

Frustrated or flourishing? Three ways we make sense of challenges at work

Posted by

Sally Maitlis shared her research which revealed that, in the face of challenges, there are three pathways that workers take:


Identity Path: in the face of threats, they rely on their sense of who they are

Contribution Path: in the face of threat, they try and use their skills to help

Practice Path: in the face of challenges, they learn skills as part of the work


What’s important is that these paths explain different outcomes of employees – the identity and contribution paths lead to frustration, burn-out and leaving the organization. Only the practice path, which is about viewing the work as an opportunity to learn the practice of the work, individuals are able to move through challenges and flourish.  This is important because the most passionate and committed people might be the most vulnerable because they may be driven by a strong identity and contribution mindset.

I wonder: what identity structures are people using when they take the “practice path”? It’s not that they aren’t using an identity structure in face of challenges, right?

Harvard Graduate School of Education