Disgraced : A study of narrative identity in organizations that suffer crises of confidence

Sammanfattning: This thesis investigates the interface between external impressions of an organization, often referred to as its brand and image, and internal expressions, its culture and the identity of its employees, in organizations that have suffered crises of confidence. More specifically, the thesis seeks to problematize the alignment ideal in the corporate branding perspective (de Chernatony, 2001; Harris and de Chernatony, 2001; Hatch and Schultz, 2001 and Balmer and Sonen, 1999), which suggests that organizations should actively seek to realign external and internal impressions, in cases where they have become misaligned. The feasibility of such an agenda is explored by empirically investigating two organizations where the brand-culture alignment has broken – whether and how easy it is to repair or realign. More specifically this is explored by analysing the narrative representations of managers and employees in disgraced organizations; how they articulate their identity in relation to the organization they work for, their own role in the events that caused allegations of misconduct in the press, as well assubsequent managerial efforts to realign internal and external impressions of the organization. Tentative findings suggest that managerial efforts to realign internal and external impressions are likely to meet considerable obstacles. A key proposition I advance is that the corporate branding perspective underestimates the cultural complexities involved in restoring the damage to a publicly disgraced organization's image. These complexities stem in large part from the pluralistic and fragmentary nature of contemporary Western discourses on morality and social legitimacy. It is increasingly difficult to arrive at a shared agreement on what moral standards should be employed when judging the probity of a specific organizational practice. Such discursive pluralism causes substantial difficulties in addressing allegations of misconduct and attempting to realign diverging impressions of the organization, without risking to offend the sensibilities of other stakeholders. It also implies a ready availability of alternative discursive resources for employee identification. Pluralism may be seen as a key feature of our time, whose implications for the notion of public disgrace has arguably been overlooked in the organizational doctrine related to the corporate branding perspective. Moreover, these findings suggest an understanding of identity as a more deeply felt human need to maintain a consistent and morally intelligible representation of self, as compared to the dramatist perspective of Goffman (1978), which underpins the corporate branding perspective and implies an understanding of selfhood as front stage selves, something that people ultimately don't take too seriously