On becoming irrelevant: an analysis of charity workers’ untold epic stories

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Abstract

While the nature, character and function of stories are variously theorized in organizational storytelling literature, little research has tried to unpack how organizational narrative domain may transform over time. Attending to the contextual transformation of organizational story space can reveal how popular stories at one epoch could be reformulated, ignored, or forgotten all together during another epoch. Drawing on ethnographic data of a children’s charity in UK, which experienced a stage of rapid professionalization, specialization, and bureaucratization, I examine the influence of this restructuring initiative on the organizational narrative domain. It was shown that the professionalization of the charity starved the old stories of the oxygen of relevance. The memories of the old pioneers, from the days of stress and violence, became less welcome as the organization turned increasingly managerial in character. The notion of ‘irrelevancy’ is further developed drawing on the work of Maurice Halbwachs, and its implications are elaborated building on storytelling research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-23
JournalTamara: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science
Volume12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • untold stories
  • Organizational change
  • Halbwachs
  • Irrelevance
  • storytelling

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