Future Seminars

21st Organizational Storytelling Seminar

“Stories in and about organizations: Narrative Approaches to Researching Organizations, Politics and Power”

To be held at the University of Bath,

Carpenter House, Broad Quay, Bath, Avon, BA1 1UD

Friday 28 March, 10 – 5:30 pm


A seminar aimed for researchers (including PhD students) interested in using stories and storytelling as part of a rich and rigorous research agenda in any field of the social sciences.

Organizer: Yiannis Gabriel, University of Bath


Professor Andrew D. Brown, University of Bath

Professor Alison Pullen, University of Swansea

Professor Carl Rhodes, University of Leicester

Professor Yiannis Gabriel, University of Bath

The Storytelling Seminar brings together scholars, research students and practitioners who are interested in the nature of stories and storytelling in organizations and the use of stories in research on different aspects of organizational life, including politics, gender, culture, leadership and emotion. Now in its 13th year, the seminar has taken place in a variety of academic institutions including Imperial College, University of Exeter, University College Cork, The Free University of Amsterdam, the Humanistics University of Utrecht, Royal Holloway University of London, City University, Queen Mary’s College and the University of East Anglia.

Details on past seminars can be found at: http://www.organizational-storytelling.org.uk/.

The ethos of the seminar is to stimulate discussion and argument among people who share a fascination and love for stories and storytelling and believe that stories open valuable windows into the world of organizations and their members. To this end, the number of participants is limited to no more than 45 and the cost of participation is kept low.

Some Storytelling Seminars are aimed predominantly at PhD students who are interested in using stories as part of their research methodology. This upcoming seminar is aimed equally at seasoned researchers and PhD students using storytelling as part of their research. It is not intended for practitioners using storytelling in consulting.

Following earlier discussions, this seminar will look more closely at research into personal and life stories. The seminar will encourage all participants, irrespective of their experience and expertise, to discuss and develop scholarship in these areas that are crucial in organizational research.

In line with the practice of previous seminars, registered participants to this seminar will be contacted prior to the seminar with further information regarding the event and some preparatory questions and themes for pre-seminar reflection. These questions and themes will then be discussed at the seminar.

Seminar Sessions

Session 1 – Making Sense of Sensemaking Stories – Andrew D. Brown, University of Bath

This presentation analyses the agreed and discrepant sensemaking of members of a project team. Embedded in a narratological approach to sensemaking research, I argue that before scholars may be able to understand in detail how agreements are reached and action becomes coordinated, we need first to take seriously the proposition that sensemaking occurs in the context of individuals’ idiosyncratic efforts at identity construction. This, I suggest, means attending to the narratives that actors tell about their work and self both for others and their selves. The key research contribution that this makes is to demonstrate how stories can be used by researchers in order to contribute to key debates in the social sciences. In this instance, people’s stories are analysed to show how ‘impression management’ and ‘attributional egotism’ may be employed to account for discrepant sensemaking. This is important for two reasons. First, it makes the case that stories are an important source of data for researchers seeking to understand project teams, and second, it contributes to a literature that has left relatively unexplored the reasons why people interpret differently experiences they have in common.

Session 2 – Studying The Politics of Organizational Life With Narratives from Popular Culture – Alison Pullen and Carl Rhodes

Storytelling is an ancient form of communication and cultural transmission. Throughout history and across nations and societies, narrative pervades human culture. But in contemporary times storytelling has changed on account of the technological media through which it is presented and transmitted. Today cultural storytelling cannot be accounted for without considering television, cinema, popular novels, magazines, advertisements, the internet, or the other myriad of mass media that emerged in and after the modern era. This presentation will explore how these stories can be connected with as a means to study the politics of organizational life.   We will illustrate this by focussing in particular of the study of gender politics in organizations. Drawing on our own work on gender politics (Pullen and Rhodes, 2010; 2014) and popular narrative (Rhodes and Pullen, 2011, 2013) as well as that of others (e.g. Czarniawska, 2006; Tyler and Cohen, 2008) we will elaborate how popular culture serves as a valuable basis for examining, questioning, theorizing, and even subverting organizational power relations. One form of resistance – parody – in popular culture will discussed to show its productive potential in undoing or even subverting organizational patriarchy.

Session 3 – Why many researchers lose sight of politics and power from storytelling and how to write them back in

That stories play a part in organizational politics in tangible as well as intangible ways can hardly be seen as original. Anyone who has worked in an organization knows that a very large number of stories (if indeed not a majority) are about politics – about conflicts and alliances, about deals and double-deals, about victories and losses and so forth. Take politics away and you snuff out much of organizational storytelling. But narratives are not only about politics – they are politics. There are times when a narrative can tip the balance of power; alliances and friendships are forged through narratives, agendas are shaped to reflect them and battles are fought over them. In this session, we will examine why narratological approaches have often been blind to power and politics and will examine ways in which they can be drawn back into the mainstream of storytelling research.


Alison Pullen is Professor of Organization Studies and the only female professor in the newly established School of Management at Swansea University. Some of her current projects include a new book on masculinity at work; feminist resistance and ethics; and the commodification of otherness in diversity research.

Carl Rhodes in Professor of Management at the University of Leicester.  His research focuses on critically interrogating the narration and representation of organizational experience in practice and popular culture, with a particular concern with the possibilities for organizational ethics and responsibility.

Andrew D. Brown took his MA at Christ Church, Oxford, and his MSc and PhD degrees at the University of Sheffield. He held faculty positions at Manchester Business School, the University of Nottingham and the University of Cambridge, before taking up a Chair in Organization Studies at the University of Bath. His principal research interests are centred on issues of sensemaking, narrative and identity. Andrew is currently a Senior Editor of Organization Studies and an Editorial Board member of Human Relations and the Journal of Management Studies.

Yiannis Gabriel is Professor of Organizational Theory at the School of Management, University of Bath. Yiannis is known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, management learning, psychoanalytic studies of work, and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena including leader-follower relations, group dynamics and fantasies, nostalgia, insults and apologies. Yiannis is co-founder and co-ordinator of the Organizational Storytelling Seminar series.

Conference details

This may be emailed to Iva Kostova <ik346@bath.ac.uk>, and the cheque for the fee posted to Professor  Yiannis Gabriel, School of Management, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, payable to “The University of Bath”.




 “Stories in and about organizations: Narrative Approaches to Researching Organizations, Politics and Power”

To be held at the University of Bath, 28 March 2014, 10 – 17:30

Carpenter House, Broad Quay, Bath, Avon, BA1 1UD

Note: Teas, coffees and a buffet lunch will be provided

Section 1. Contact Details

Name and surname ……………………………………………………………………

Title and Institutional affiliation    ………………….……………………………………………

Email address:………………………………………………………….

Section 2. Requirements.

Please indicate if you have special requirements eg dietary, mobility.

Section 3. Payment of Fees

Conference Fee £30 (PhD students) or £50 (other researchers)

Please make cheques payable to “The University of Bath” and send to

Professor Yiannis Gabriel,

School of Management, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY

Tel: +44 (0)1225 386377 Fax: +44 (0)1225 386473

Completed booking forms and payment should be submitted by email by 20th March 2014.

Please note that the number of attendants will be kept to a maximum of 45, so early registration and payment are recommendedScholars coming from abroad may pay on the day, but should confirm their participation in good time.

If you are unable to attend this meeting but would like to be kept informed of future events, please email Yiannis Gabriel at y.gabriel@bath.ac.uk