Narrative mediation in organizational conflicts
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Narrative mediation in organizational conflicts. Nikolaj Kure, assistant professor, PhD [email protected] Centre for Corporate Communication, ASB, Aarhus University (DK). Workshop disposition. Key elements of narrative practices

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Narrative mediation in organizational conflicts

Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

Narrative mediation in organizational conflicts

Nikolaj Kure, assistant professor, PhD

[email protected]

Centre for Corporate Communication, ASB, Aarhus University (DK)


Workshop disposition

Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

Workshop disposition

  • Key elements of narrative practices

  • The first displacement of the narrative practices: the relation.

    - John Winslade, Gerald Monk, Alison Cotter: Theoretical perspectives and exercises.

  • The second displacement: the organization.

    - Theory, analysis, intervention.

    During: Your reflections and perspectives on mediation in organizations and communities.


Key elements of narrative practices

Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

Key elements of narrative practices

Developed by Michael White

  • Identity as a narrative construct:

    “It’s to propose that we live by the stories that we have about our lives, that these stories actually shape our lives, constitute our lives, and that they ’embrace’ our lives” (Michael White in Bubenzer, West & Boughner 1994: 73).

    • Negative identity conclusions

    • Externalizing practices or ’naming’ the problem

    • Taking a position against the problem, Position Map 1,

    • Telling new self-stories: Position Map 1, unique out-comes

    • Witnessing new self-stories: Outsider wittness groups


Uses of narrative practices

Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

Uses of narrative practices

  • The individual (in relations): Therapy and supervision

    • White

  • The relation: Conflict in relations

    • 1. displacement: Winslade, Cotter, Monk

  • The organization: Change and mediation

    • 2. displacement


  • Mediators use of the narrative practices

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Mediators’ use of the narrative practices

    • Theoretical starting point: Michel Foucault

    • The discursive construction of the subject

    • 1800 onwards: the production of knowledge about the individual takes its beginning – the ’I’ is constituted as an object for scientific knowledge and scrutiny

    • > The objectivisation of the ’I’, a discurvisation of the ’I’: the production of discourses that define the ’I’.

    • The discourse: “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (1969, p. 49).

    • The figure normal/not normal

    • > The subjectivisation of the ’I’

    • The production of ’normal’ and ’not normal’ subjects.

    • The double meaning of ’the subject’: ’subject’ – ’subject to’

    • Panopticon – the installing of self-surveillance


    Mediators use of the narrative practices1

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Mediators’ use of the narrative practices

    • Theoretical inspiration: Harré & Davies’ positioning theory

    • Discursive positioning practices

    • Discourses are used as resources for positioning practices, that is for the construction of relational identity (’negative definition’)

    • Example from a radio programme about Danish manor houses: ’And, obviously, Heinrich von Staffeldt was the King’s Lord Chamberlain’.

    • Survey on the web: ”Danes are cheap”: How much do you spend on food a month?

    • ’Now, let’s be reasonable just for a second here?’


    Mediators use of the narrative practices2

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Mediators’ use of the narrative practices

    Conception of conflicts

    • Conflicts are ’polarized positions’ (not opposing, objective interests)

    • Conflicts are nurtured by a ’discursive background’ in the relation

    • ’Let’s be reasonable here’ > ’You don’t ever listen or take me seriously’ > escalation of the conflict


    Exercise 1 discursive positioning

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Exercise 1: discursive positioning

    • A study on migrant workers (source: Mik-Meyer & Järvinen (2005): Kvalitative metoder i et interaktionistisk perspektiv)

    • Interviewer: “I would like to know, during all these years you have lived in Denmark, have you ever experienced cultural conflicts?”

    • Kadin: “Well… that’s a strange question, and it is a bit difficult… there are bad and good things in the Danish culture, and there are bad and good things in the Moslem culture”

    • Interviewer: “You didn’t have a hard time getting used to live in Denmark?”

    • Kadin: “No, I didn’t find it that difficult”

    • Interviewer: “Are you happy to be in Denmark?”

    • Kadin: “Yes”

    • Interviewer: “So you don’t think about going…”

    • Kadin: “No, I think about Denmark as my home country”

    • Interviewer: “I think that’s wonderful to hear that”

    • Kadin: “Yes”

    • Interviewer: “So you don’t have any plans of going home or go back to Pakistan?”

    • Kadin: “No. But I have been there on holidays a number of times”


    Discuss in groups

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Discuss in groups…

    • Which positions are the interviewer (unconsciously) offering Kadin and herself during the interview?

    • Which discourse is the interviewer drawing upon?


    Exercise 2 mail correspondance between manager and employee

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Exercise 2: Mail correspondance between manager and employee

    • mail. I have been invited for a weekend trip. I would be very sad if I had to turn the offer down. Lone (employee)

      2. mail. When does your weekend start? Jens (manager)

      3. mail. We are leaving Friday morning. Kind regards, Lone

      4. mail. I think that it is very important to participate in seminars where we are going to discuss mission, values, methods etc. which is our launching pad for the organization. We have asked that this day is prioritized higher than ’jobs in the field’. Jens

      5. mail. I agree that the seminar is important. Just very annoying that I cannot prioritize my family in this case. I participate until 4 and hope that is ok!? Lone


    Discuss in pairs

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Discuss in pairs…

    • Which preferred identities are the manager and employees reciprocally destroying in their positioning practices?


    Mediators use of the narrative practices3

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Mediators’ use of the narrative practices

    Narrative mediators apply narrative practices to retell the relation, in order to challenge the discourses that condition conflicts:

    Position Map 1

    • Naming: What would you prefer to call that thing ’taking over’ when you end up fighting?

    • Effects

    • Evaluation: Do you like the effects?

    • Justification: Why/why not? New story line developing.

      Witnessing practices

    • Expression

    • Image

    • Resonance

    • Transport


    What is an organization

    The marginalized discourse

    The dominating discourse

    Field of practice

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    What is an organization?

    The organization as a discursive formation

    • A structure of discourses that fight for social hegemony on the different practice fields in the organization


    Choice of theory

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Choice of theory

    • Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theori

      • Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985)

      • Political theory: Society understood as an unstable discursive battlefield

      • Theoretical predecessors

        • Saussure’s structuralism

        • Foucault’s discourse theory

        • Derrida’s poststructuralism


    Laclau mouffe s discourse theory

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Laclau & Mouffe’s discourse theory

    Social phenomena are discursive products

    “An earthquake or the falling of a brick is an event that certainly exists, in the sense that it occurs here and now, independently of my will. But whether their specificity as objects is constructed in terms of ‘natural phenomena’ or ‘expressions of the wrath of God’, depends upon the structuring of a discursive field. What is denied is not that such objects exist externally to thought, but the rather different assertion that they could constitute themselves as objects outside any discursive condition of emergence” (Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 108).


    Laclau mouffe s discourse theory1

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Laclau & Mouffe’s discourse theory

    • The subject = a position produced by the discourse

    • The articulation = the process in which social phenomena are produced discursively

    • The discourse= “The structured totality resulting from this articulatory practice, we will call discourse.” (Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 105)

    • The discourse’s hegemonic ambition= “Any discourse is constituted as an attempt to dominate the field of discursivity” (Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 112)

    • The impossibility of hegemony= ”As we saw, every identity is dislocated insofar as it depends on an outside which both denies that identity and provides its condition of possibility at the same time” (Laclau 1990: 39)

    • Implication for the social: ’Overdetermination’, liquid identity


    Laclau mouffe s discourse theory2

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Laclau & Mouffe’s discourse theory

    Conflict rationale

    • The dominating discourses produce privileged subjectpositions

    • Suppressed discourses produce marginalized positions – certain practices become socially accepted, others do not.

    • A part of the privilege: defining others negatively (Winslade: entitlement)

    • Fight for recognition (Axel Honneth) with a destructive expression

    • Result: repeated organizational conflict patterns


    Case study

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Case study

    The organization: A multifunctional team in a Danish hospital (practice field ’decision-making’)

    Decision making subject positions:

    • The (dominating) holistic and reflecting decision-maker – produced by a discourse of ’equality’

    • The (marginalized) monistic and assessing decision-maker – produced be a discourse of ’difference’

      Result:

      Thomas (physiotherapist) and Pernille (psychologist) were repeatedly negatively defined

      Conflict patterns occur


    Narrative practices in mediation

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Narrative practices in mediation

    Organizational mediation aims at..

    • …allowing the members to rearrange the discursive material that articulates the organization’s practice fields (and not the relations)

    • …allowing the members to activate the marginalized discursive potential in order to undermine the conflict producing positioning practices.


    The narrative consultation

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    The narrative consultation

    Centre for Motoric Disabilities, Strandby Sygehus

    Research design

    • Meetings with the team members

    • 7 qualitative interviews with members

      Aim: descriptions of the social practice in the organization in order to access the discursive formation

    • The narrative consultation – two-day seminar

    • 7 qualitative interviews with members

      Aim: descriptions of changes in the social practice


    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict

    The consultation

    A two-day seminar with the team

    • Position map 1

      • The main rationale: Discourses are produced and hierarchized in narratives.

        A retelling of the practice fields will entail a reorganization/dislocation of the discursive formation

    • Outsider wittness group

      • The rationale: to anchor/integrate/witness new stories in the organization


    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict1

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict

    Position map 1

    1. Naming the problem

    ”After having listened to all the statements about problems in the organization, which two or three problems have especially influenced you? What would you call these problems?”

    2. Effects of the problem

    ”How have these problems affected you: What have they made you say or do? What have they made you feel and think in relation to others? Give examples”.


    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict2

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict

    Position map 1

    3. Evaluating the problem effects

    ”Do you like the position that the problems have made you assume? Do you like the actions you have taken from that position and the feeling that have grasped you?”

    4. Justifying the evaluation

    ”Why do you or why don’t you like the actions that you have taken of the position that the problems have brought you in? Which values, intentions, and principles do you represent since you do/don’t like the actions you have taken? Tell me about them. Can you tell the stories about these values, intentions, and principles?”


    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict3

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Narrative mediation in organizational conflict

    • Outsider wittness group

      • Expression

      • Image

      • Resonance

      • Transport


    Example of a discursive displacement

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Example of a discursive displacement

    • ”In a way it has become clearer to me what class in the hierarchy I belong to, what I can do essentially. For example, in relation to the team’s future, I cannot do much more that shout and express that now we should do this or that. But it is Kurt’s task to talk to the management, Kurt has got to do that. That is the hierarchy. Now we would like to know what will happen to our team in the future, then I can make that clear to my leader, who is Kurt, who should take it a step further” (Jytte, occupational therapist).

    • Well, when we started this project it was like everyone was equal. No matter, I was equal with the others, Julie was equal everyone was equal. And Johan was equal, but we are not! That’s an illusion. We have different roles to play, different competences, different educations, so we are not equal, we don’t have the same role in the team, we don’t and that has become clearer” (Kurt, medical doctor, formal manager).


    Reflections interview in pairs

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Reflections: interview in pairs…

    Think about your organization or an organization or a communitity you are working with

    • Which discourses are active in producing social practices/reality?

    • How do these discourses express themselves? What effects do they have on the social practices?

    • Which discourses are dominated/suppressed? How can you see that?

    • What are the effects of this relation of dominance?


    Questions reflections

    Narrative mediation in organizations, ACR, 2009, [email protected]

    Questions – reflections…


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