Story sequences in meeting talk: Identity construction and employee relations

Birte Asmuß

Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University, Denmark

TP164: Forms of social organization in meeting talk

Meetings are a crucial part of most people’s everyday work life, but there are a lot of indications that more and more employees find meetings problematic: they are time-consuming, they are badly structured and there is often no precise outcome. According to the literature, one of the overall solutions to these problems seems to be to make meetings more efficient (e.g. Streibel 2003). This involves for instance a clear agenda, a professional meeting leadership and a strict time frame.

As this paper aims to show, these kind of restrictions can go on behalf of other valuable aspects in meetings. There are a lot of important activities going on in meetings that at first sight not necessarily can be related to workplace relevant activities, like identity construction, building of social relationships, conflict resolution and decision making (e.g. Firth 1995, Housley 2000, Huisman 2001).

In this paper I will focus on one major activity that regularly takes place in meetings, and which at first sight might appear to be unefficient: namely story telling. I will show how this activity can function to bridge from one meeting activity to another and how it can serve as conflict mediator. By doing so it plays a crucial role in the construction of workplace identities and in defining employee relations.

The study is based on conversation analysis of videotaped internal and external meetings from different private and public organizations.


Firth, Alan (ed.) (1995): The discourse of negotiation: studies of language in the workplace. Oxford: Pergamon.

Housley, William (2000) 'Category Work and Knowledgeability within Multidisciplinary Team Meetings', TEXT, 20: 83-107

Huisman, Marjan (2001) 'Decision-making in meetings as talk-in-interaction', International Studies of Management & Organization 31/3: 69-90

Streibel, Barbara, J (2003): The manager’s guide to effective meetings. Blacklick: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Session: Themed Panel (part 2)
Forms of social organization in meeting talk
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 06