From what to where: A setting-sensitive approach to organizational storytelling

Merlijn van Hulst, Sierk Ybema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Extant literature on organizational storytelling assumes storytelling to be context-bound, but does not empirically detail or theorize how storytelling might differ across organizational settings. In the context of members’ everyday work lives, organizational storytelling research tends to focus on the content of stories and not on the actual telling. By addressing this omission, this paper makes three contributions. First, we offer a generic framework for analysing storytelling in situ by zooming in on the situated occurrence of storytelling through a focus on four questions: (1) What makes an event tellable? (2) What triggers its telling? (3) What form does the storytelling take? (4) What work does it do? By using ethnographic data gathered on storytelling in everyday police work, we empirically substantiate this framework. Our second contribution,
then, is to show how a setting-specific approach to studying storytelling may help to flesh out a fuller, more grounded account of story life in organizations. Finally, we propose a typology of different forms of settingspecific
discourse – meeting-room talk, workstation talk, canteen talk and closed-door talk – which allows researchers to further sensitize organizational research to the situated nature of organizational discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365– 391
Number of pages27
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number3
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • VIEW
  • WORK
  • context
  • discourse
  • ethnography
  • narrative
  • police
  • storytelling


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