“Relaaax, I remember the recession in the early 1980s …”: Organizational storytelling as a crisis management tool
Article first published online: 19 SEP 2011
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Human Resource Development Quarterly
Volume 22, Issue 3, pages 373–385, Autumn (Fall) 2011
How to Cite
Kopp, D. M., Nikolovska, I., Desiderio, K. P. and Guterman, J. T. (2011), “Relaaax, I remember the recession in the early 1980s …”: Organizational storytelling as a crisis management tool. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 22: 373–385. doi: 10.1002/hrdq.20067
- Issue published online: 19 SEP 2011
- Article first published online: 19 SEP 2011
In this conceptual paper, we consider organizational storytelling as a communications tool in which stories are used to reduce the stress and anxiety of organizational members during a crisis. While there is much consensus among organizational scholars detailing storytelling's active role in such processes as organizational learning and performance (Boje, 1991; Czarniawska, 1998), knowledge sharing and knowledge management (Denning, 2000), management development (Morgan & Dennehy, 1997), and normative organizational behavior (Poulton, 2005), the literature is still evolving on how the act of storytelling could facilitate not only how organizational members make sense of a crisis, but also how they adapt to the inevitable organizational changes following a crisis. In particular, storytelling—with its narrative process—can be utilized to manage how the organizational members react to the crisis by absorbing what Patriotta (2003) called “the discordance by constructing a plot around a disruptive occurrence” (p. 163). Indeed, making sense of a crisis follows Weick's (1995) disruption-transformation-solution framework. We argue that storytelling should be part of an organization's crisis-management program, per se. As human resource development and organizational crisis-management disciplines share great commonality and concerns in areas dealing with organizational behavior during crises, we propose that storytelling can be used as HRD's toolkit in leveraging human capital pre-, during, and post-crises.