Working with stories: Diverse tales of organizational life

Paula Hyde*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of stories in a mental health environment. It includes an account of learning to read and recognise stories as a particular form of organizational narrative in the National Health Service (NHS). Design/methodology/approach The study involved a retrospective search for stories contained within ethnographic data collected from a mental health organization. A small number of stories were analysed in an attempt to discover how stories were used in one particular organizational setting. Findings The stories told by staff ranged from heroic action on behalf of a patient and in spite of the organization, to tragic stories of staff coming to harm. Stories told by patients concerned their experiences of meaningful relationships with the staff. Alongside this small collection of stories, two particular phenomena associated with storytelling are described; the first involves counterstories, which involved either discrediting accounts of patient as storytellers or offered different stories to suggest competing interpretations. The second involved collapsed story forms exchanged between staff as a means of convergent sensemaking. Originality/value The paper works with stories as a particular narrative form in one particular mental health setting. These stories have the potential to draw attention to aspects of organisational life such as fears about harming patients or coming to harm and possibilities for relationships between patients and staff. Two forms of exchange related to storytelling are detailed and are described as counter and collapsed stories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-158
Number of pages12
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnography
  • Mental health services
  • Narratives
  • National Health Service
  • Storytelling


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