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Storytelling and 'character': Victims, villains and heroes in a case of technological change

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrea Whittle, Professor Frank Mueller



In this article we examine the role of stories in the temporal development of images of the self at work. Drawing on an in-depth case study of technological change in a UK public-private partnership, we highlight the role of stories in the construction, maintenance and defence of actors' moral status and organizational reputation. The analysis focuses on the development of one 'character' as he shifted from the role of innocent victim to implied villain to heroic survivor within the stories constructed during routine work conversations. We argue that stories are intimately linked to the forms of 'moral accounting' that serve to deal with the challenges to 'face' and social positioning that accompany 'failed' organizational change. Stories, we suggest, are likely to be invoked when an interactional encounter threatens the participants' sense of social worth. Stories in which we present ourselves in a positive light - for instance as virtuous, honourable, courageous, caring, committed, competent - comprise a key component of face-saving strategies designed to maintain our social positioning: processes that are often intensified during periods of organizational change.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whittle A, Mueller F, Mangan A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2009

Volume: 16

Issue: 3

Pages: 425-442

Print publication date: 01/05/2009

Date deposited: 24/04/2015

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/1350508409102305


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