This paper aims to re-invigorate the critical function of narrative methods in organization studies. Without it storytelling runs the risk of becoming a bland instrument of ideological manipulation. Some years ago Gabriel (2003) already warned against the potentially deceptive qualities of storytelling in the hands of spin doctors and image makers both on a textual and performative level. More recently, however, Brown e.a. (2009) signaled an increased reluctance among narrative researchers to analyze the tensions and lures in organizational narratives in order to protect the voice of experience against its scientific dissection. This ‘hands off my story!’ injunction, however, also heightens our vulnerability to ideological indoctrination. As Žižek (1993, 1997) has noted, the refusal to traverse the fantasy of our stories is exactly what keeps us ‘in chains’. The solution, therefore, is not to dismiss analysis, but to embrace it. Through the lens of Žižek’s theory of ideology this paper examines some of the rhetorical mechanisms used in storytelling that may put us on the wrong foot in ‘writing responsibly’ (Rhodes and Brown, 2005) about organizations. To determine the ideological effect of stories narrative research is necessarily comparative: the question narrative analysis as a research method needs to focus on is not what story someone is telling, how it is told or whether it is true, but why it is told like that.
4th International Conference on Rhetoric and Narratives in Management Research

Essers, J.P.J.M. (2011). Re-writing the Organization: Rhetorical Pitfalls of Narrative Research. Presented at the 4th International Conference on Rhetoric and Narratives in Management Research. Retrieved from