Identity negotiations in meetings: When the manager joins for lunch

This paper belongs to Thematic Session 2 of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Birte Asmuß, Aarhus University (Management)
Sae Oshima

Abstract 
Authors: Birte Asmuß, Aarhus University, asmuss@mgmt.au.dk
Sae Oshima, Aarhus University, oshima@mgmt.au.dk

Meetings are places, where identity negotiation is a central activity and where members’ local practices recurrently inform and are informed by larger categories (Antaki and Widdicombe 1998). Correspondingly, the approach to understanding organization (macro) by way of identity work (micro) has become prominent (e.g. Fasulo and Zucchermaglio 2002, Alvesson, Lee Ashcraft et al. 2008, Vöge 2010). The current paper aims to further uncover this mechanism by looking at an organizational lunchroom meeting. Our data come from a U.S. design company that has just gone through a merger with another company, and in the data recorded over 10 days, the employees frequently complain about the many changes that have taken place. Our focus lies in a unique occasion where one of the managers makes an unusual appearance at the lunchroom. In this situation, he is the only one that is on the business side of the company, and all members know (and display) that he holds some information that the rest don’t have access to. Our analysis shows that the participants evoke various identities of the manager, sometimes orienting to the structure of the organization, and other times orienting to wider social categories belonging outside the organization. By taking a close look at this single case, we aim to reveal the members’ practices for orienting to and accomplishing the micro-macro divide (or not) in situ, and how the practices are worked around the affordances and restrictions of the eating-lunch activity. Ultimately, such analysis opens the way for discussing the organizational value of facilitating informal meeting places.

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