Communicate belonging? Duoethnography of an organisational change study

Ivana Crestani

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Communicate belonging? A duoethnographic inquiry into an organizational change study. The notion of belonging may seem at odds with organizational change. After all most academic and practitioner approaches to change management start with letting go of the past so as to embrace change and the future. It is not unusual for employees to be “scared” into change when their leaders speak of the change as being a journey and employees have a choice to either “get on the bus, or get off”. Many change management models are adaptations of Kurt Lewin’s (1947) three-step model of “unfreezing”, “changing” and “freezing” with an underlying focus on employee resistance. These models are functionalist, linear, rational and driven from the top. Change management is currently going through change itself with current approaches being challenged given the poor success rate, with about 70 percent of change programs failing. Many models are criticized for a lack of focus on employee experience (Oreg, Michel & By, 2014) and for "largely ignoring the role of emotions in organizational change" (Palmer, 2009, p. 297). Bell and Taylor (2011) challenge a need to break with the past by proposing a “continuing bonds” perspective which accepts the past, as this has shown to be more meaningful to employees experiencing organizational change. Similarly, this continuity, with the past, is central to Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in its approach to transformational change. In an organizational sense, belonging disrupts the considered truth of the need to forget the past. Belonging, which taps into the emotional needs of employees, is in keeping with the continuity need in AI, is about “continuing bonds” and thereby addresses the feelings of loss, powerlessness and separation that may emerge. Belonging is a feeling that describes the connection an employee has with organization or team and manifests through feeling accepted and trusted and being involved in contributing to an organization’s values and goals. Maslow (1943) identified belonging as a core emotional and motivational need of individuals and as such, can assist in preparing for change rather than creating resistance. This paper engages in duoethnographic inquiry (Sawyer & Norris, 2013) so as to create open spaces for other voices to share different conversations (stories) around communicating belonging in organizational change management. An organizational change practitioner/doctoral candidate and academic/supervisor question how they coped with the facts and feelings of their industry and academic experiences and, through this process invite the reader (s) to add to and rewrite their own stories or experiences. The narratives focus on fieldwork activities whereby fifteen non-managerial research participants were invited to share some organizational change stories. This Australian biosecurity organization had recently undergone “modernization” through a major restructure involving redundancies, system changes and, in the case of head office, a complete redesign of office spaces. The aim of this paper is to inspire, listen and understand different experiences (Bochner, 2000) surrounding a case study where the feeling of belonging emerged as being relevant to employees during change.The duoethnographers create a heteroglossia, or a diversity of voices, as time, events, artefacts, understandings and questions (Sawyer & Norris, 2013) are invoked by memories of fieldwork activity associated with the study. Duoethnographic method permits “readers to witness two or more people both in conversation and thinking about conversation” (Sawyer & Norris, 2013, p. 75) thereby allowing others to see their own perception of that event and thus reconstruct that perception (p.64). Through this process, new meaning from experience as insight and feeling emerges which is not usually possible with meta-narratives found with solitary writing.In seeking to make sense of their practice experiences, the writers work together to give both similar and different meanings to concerns and crises surrounding intensive interview data under scrutiny. The lexis of conversation was moiety, an anthropological analysis approach to understanding culture (Wolcott, 2003). Meaning “half” in French, moiety “refers to a social structure comprised of two distinct subcultures, each of which has distinct norms and beliefs” and operate and interact in different ways (Brooks & Jean-Marie, 2007, p.757-758). In terms of anthropology, moiety refers to each of two social or ritual groups into which a people is divided (Oxford Dictionaries – definition of moiety analysis). Perhaps an analysis strategy, with a moiety emphasis, could offer a way of better working with observed participant conflicts that are contextual and nuanced, and where each perspective has its own story to tell (Saldana, 2016, p.140). This duoethnography seeks to offer a critical self-empowering collaboration that will disrupt and transform practice meta-narratives, around communicating belonging in organizational change management, and engage other voices with an emergent text of shared experiences. ReferencesAl-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Management, 28(2), 234-262.Bell, E., & Taylor, S. (2011). Beyond letting go and moving on: New perspectives on organizational death, loss and grief. 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Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.Moiety. (2017). Online Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved March 8. 2017, from Norris, J., Sawyer, R.D. & Lund, D. (Eds.). (2016). Duoethnography: Dialogic methods for social, health, and educational research. New York, NY: Routledge. Oreg, S., Michel, A., & By, R. T. (Eds.). (2014). The Psychology of organizational change: Viewing change from the employee's perspective (Paperback ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.Palmer, I., Dunford, R., & Akin, G. (2009). Managing organizational change: A multiple perspectives approach. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.Saldana, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. (3rd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications. Sawyer, R. D., & Norris, J. (2013). Understanding qualitative research: Duoethnography. New York, United States of America: Oxford University Press. Spradley, J.P. (1980). Participant observation. United States of America: Wadsworth.Wolcott, H. 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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Feb 2021

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