Conflicting Perspectives in a Housing Association: An Investigation of Employees' Counter-narratives in Relation to a New Business Strategy

Susanne Kjærbeck, Marianne Wolff Lundholt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate employees’ conflicting perspectives on the business strategy in a Danish housing association through a narrative approach, in order to gain insight into the relation between master- and counter-narratives. The authors discuss the possibility of integrating counter-narratives as a resource in strategy processes. Finally, the usefulness and challenges of the applied narrative approach are addressed.

Design/methodology/approach

The study was undertaken as a case study of strategy communication in a private housing association. The empirical material consists of 16 qualitative interviews from all levels of the organization as well as recordings of meetings where management presents a new strategy to the employees. The study adopts a mixed methods interpretivist approach using focus groups and interviews as data and with a focus on narratives as sense-making resources. The applied method of analysis is based on narratology, sociological action analysis and the concept of “framing.”

Findings

Employees’ counter-narratives focus on practical problems regarding the implementation of the business strategy. They materialize through temporal structures and framing strategies through which employees’ perspectives are presented indirectly and with great care. In spite of their oppositional content, these counter-perspectives cannot be considered to be resistance; on the contrary, employees take great interest in solving the reported problems. Counter-narratives are seemingly useful resources in a form of “reality check” in the organization, in order to elucidate the implementation of the business strategy and make necessary adjustments. The research furthermore points to a more dialogical strategy communication where employees are involved earlier in the process rather than marginalized to “resistant bystanders.”

Originality/value

These findings give insight into the use of narratives as practical meaning construction in an organizational context, and in relation to strategy communication and change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Volume34
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)46-59
ISSN0953-4814
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Change
  • Narrative
  • Counter-narrative
  • Strategy
  • Framing
  • Conflict

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