Becoming a reflective and reflexive practitioner in the workplace

Becoming a reflective and reflexive practitioner in the workplace

Purposeful reflection empowers enduring personal and professional growth by allowing an individual to better understand who they are and the role he or she plays in social processes. A critical evaluation of past events, words spoken, and how we perceive and treat others can provide valuable insight into our biases, judgments, perceptions, and our overall way of thinking (Cunliffe, 2004). Schon (1987), referred to the process of looking back and reflecting on events as reflecting on action. Reflection occupies an important place in organizations and it’s needed today more than ever. We live in a digital world where notifications and emails move at the speed of light. In today’s business world everything seems to be a priority even when it’s not and the bombardment of information is relentless. While reflection is the process of looking on past action, reflexive evaluation is the process of mindfully being in the moment.

The practice of critically examining our assumptions underlying our actions and then thinking through the impact of those actions on others in real time is known as reflexive evaluation. Reflexive evaluation differs from reflection in two ways. First, reflexive evaluation happens in real time; it happens while we are in action. Second, it is a philosophy driven practice where we take responsibility for our behavior and actions as we engage others (Cunliffe, 2004). Reflexive evaluation allows for a more humanistic approach to self-awareness because we are aware of the effects of who we are, how we are communicating, and then reactive to how others perceive our engagement (Fryers & Greenwood, 2016). When we are reflexive, we are evaluating cause and effect in the moment of engagement.

Cunliffe (2016) posits three types of analysis necessary to critical reflexive evaluation: existential, relational, and praxis. Existential analysis requires an individual to examine their own self-awareness with a focus on individual purpose and how the individual fits into society. The relational analysis requires an individual to examine relationships with others. It’s an examination that also includes how an individual relates to the world. Praxis analysis requires an individual to focus on self-consciousness and ethical action. Praxis includes a reflection on past events and a mindful examination of future opportunities (Cunliffe, 2004). Reflexive evaluation allows an individual to be aware of their actions on others, to consider unconscious biases, to acknowledge the complexity of the world we live in, and to recognize inequalities and inequities so that we do not unconsciously perpetuate injustices (Fyers & Greenwood, 2016).

The importance of reflective and reflexive evaluation cannot be overstated. To be effective, both reflective and reflexive practice require persistent self-examination of action and thought. (Maksimović, & Osmanović, 2019). Though the practice of reflective and reflexive evaluation does not come naturally to most people, it is a learned skill, and with practice it can become a natural part of how we engage others (Henderson, et al., 2002; Hofer, 2017). In my current position as a director, I supervise a large number of personnel. I work in a fast-paced environment where organizational members encounter accelerated change daily. It is an environment of high stress and high demand and an environment that can easily enable frustration, misunderstandings, a lack of communication, and a loss of trust in the work place if not managed. As a supervisor, I seek success for those I supervise and acknowledge that creating a self-reflective environment is one way to create an environment of energy, motivation, creativity, trust, and success. Journaling is one way I practice reflective thought. Mindfulness is how I practice reflexive evaluation, and I encourage both in the workplace. I remind myself daily that engagement with others is not about me, it is about the person I am engaging. A selfless approach to people engagement allows one to disconnect from defense mechanisms that may derail an interaction with another person especially when the person is distressed, angry, or sad. I argue for the necessity of reflection at the individual, collective, and organizational levels and for reflexive evaluation in thought as these tools allow organizational members to better process emotions, manage workload, engage with each others, and cope with change.


Cunliffe, A. L. (2016). “On becoming a critically reflexive practitioner” Redux: What does it mean to “be” reflexive? Journal of Management Education, 40(6), 740–746.

Cunliffe, A. L. (2004). On becoming a critically reflexive practitioner. Journal of Management Education, 28(4), 407–426.

Fyers, K., & Greenwood, S. (2016). Cultural safety: Becoming a reflexive practitioner. Nursing Review (1173-8014), 16(5), 27–28. Retrieved from:

Henderson, E., Berlin, A., Freeman, G., & Fuller, J. (2002). Twelve tips for promoting significant event analysis to enhance reflection in undergraduate medical students. Medical Teacher, 24(2), 121–124.

Hofer, B. K. (2017). Shaping the epistemology of teacher practice through reflection and reflexivity. Educational Psychologist, 52(4), 299–306.

Maksimović, J., & Osmanović, J. (2019). Perspective of cognitive thinking and reflective teaching practice. International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering & Education (IJCRSEE), 7(2), 1–10.

Schon, D.A. (1987), Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design on teaching and learning in the professions, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.


Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | October 1, 2021 11:17 pm MST

Dr.  Murray

The content of your blog is timely as well as invaluable. You referenced, "The importance of reflective and reflexive evaluation cannot be overstated. To be effective, both reflective and reflexive practice require persistent self-examination of action and thought." Persistent means intentional daily actions on my part to ensure I respond to what is taking place now, how I may improve future behaviors and how I meet daily objectives. These are habits that lead to inevitable growth in each aspect of my life and how I interact with others. I agree with you the selfless approach adds value to the lives of others to build and sustain positive relationships. Thank you for presenting several positive points that are aligned with a roadmap to personal and professional success. 

Bobbie Murray's picture Bobbie Murray | November 27, 2021 10:41 am MST

Dr. Sessoms-Penny, 

I appreciate your reply and insight.  The need for reflective and reflexive evaluation is needed now more than ever to evaluate, analyze and interpret the current events of our economy.  As a professional, both are needed to navigate the ambiguity of the workforce.  My hope is that this blog serves as a reminder that without reflective and reflexive evaluation, we may lack clarity and direction in purpose.

Dr. Murray

Joy Taylor's picture Joy Taylor | October 8, 2021 5:22 am MST

Dr. Murray

I find the discussion of reflexive evaluation compelling. Initially, I thought the focus was going to be on reflecting on the past as a tool for moving forward. You clearly present a case for why reflexive evaluation is so much more. In particular, being "mindfully in the moment, happening in real time" helped me to see the value of being self-aware and recognizing how my actions impact others. We really do not exist in a vacuum. Therefore, even as I gain understanding of my individual purpose, I am reminded of the need to navigate carefully while interacting with those around me.

Bobbie Murray's picture Bobbie Murray | November 27, 2021 10:49 am MST

Dr. Taylor,

If I may, your reply brought me great joy!  Yes, absolutely correct.  In my line of work I have always emphasized "the details matter."  The way we treat others absolutely matters!!!  It takes practice, patience, and perserverence to exercise reflexive thought in action but when done right, the payoff results in stronger relationships, a better understanding of others, and a healthy sensitivity to our overall environment.   I really appreciate your reply and comments.  Thank you!

Dr. Murray

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