Making sense of the corporate philosophy: Dialogic employee engagement and narrative positioning

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We find an increased interest in the concept of employee engagement within the area of organizational and corporate communication. Employee engagement is an umbrella term for a number of cognitive, emotional and physical aspects (Kahn, 1990) of relating positively to one’s work, and research within this area has mostly connected employee engagement to organizational productivity and effectiveness. In this paper, we suggest a new approach to employee engagement by relating it to employee communication and placing it within dialogue theory (Buber, 1970) combined with Bamberg’s (1997) positioning theory. Our case is a strategy meeting on the topic of how a corporate philosophy devised by top management and entitled “Business Kind2Mind” is interpreted by managers and what they view is the best way to implement the philosophy within subsidiaries. Theorizing engagement dialogically enables a shift from instrumental perspectives to a more interpretive approach in which true mutuality entails participants’ views being heard and incorporated in the corporate philosophy, and engagement is not purely about efficiency and outcome. A dialogical approach enables us to conceive of employee communication not as only upwardly or downwardly directed between manager and employee, but as interactional, with mutual change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCommunication & Language at Work
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)25-39
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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