Naturally Occurring Discursive Work as a Reflection of Organizational Identification During Organizational Transformation

Olli-Jaakko Kupiainen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Research on organizational changes traditionally focuses on the outcome of change efforts or change processes. Recent theoretical openings of "work" complement these approaches, which aim to elucidate organizational members' purposeful change efforts. Work has discursive, relational, and material dimensions. This doctoral thesis focuses on discursive work, which emphasizes the role of language in aiming to shape or change an organization's social-symbolic objects. An organization's future, identity, and status represent such social-symbolic objects in this doctoral thesis. An empirical arena of this doctoral thesis is naturally occurring change talk that organizational members generate on the enterprise social media and its discussion board during an organizational transformation. These posts are considered organizational narratives. The strength of the narrative approach is that it acknowledges multiple interpretations of change. This doctoral thesis is a case study consisting of three individual essays and a summary of those essays. Each essay explores the same data through different work lenses: temporal work, organizational identity (OI) work, and status work. The essays show how organizational members integrated their microlevel change talk into their organization's macrolevel change attempts. Essay 1 argues that organizational members engage in future-making by offering solutions and making "if-then" plans to enable their organization to meet its goals in the future. Essay 2 suggests that they discursively construct time- and context-sensitive OIs offering alternative interpretations of ongoing transformation. Essay 3 shows that members engage in status-seeking on behalf of their organization, which is supported or hindered by organizational self-efficacy. This doctoral thesis advances the understanding of organizational change literature by arguing that the discursive "work" in which organizational members engage in on a technological platform can help to set the direction for the organization during transformation when organizational members monitor and assess their organization's interest (one motivational aspect of organizational identification). Thus, it is argued that discursive work and organizational identification are closely linked. The research suggests that organizational members' collective, discursive work through social technologies is a cultural phenomenon in which diverse and critical interpretations of ongoing transformation can also be expressed. Furthermore, discursive work requires resources from the members to make inferences about the situation. Social technologies support discursive work by making multiple interpretations and an organization's change potentials visible via organizational narratives, thus generating a discourse of direction.
Translated title of the contributionLuonnollisesti esiintyvä diskursiivinen työ organisaatioon samastumisen reflektiona organisaatiomuutoksen aikana
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Vuori, Natalia, Supervising Professor
  • Vartiainen, Matti, Thesis Advisor
  • Hakonen, Anu, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-1834-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-1835-3
Publication statusPublished - 2024
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • transformation
  • discursive work
  • organizational identification
  • organizational narratives
  • organizational identity
  • organization's status
  • temporality
  • future
  • enterprise social media
  • case study


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