Narrative Inquiry into the Lived Experience of Workplace Hope

More than an ethemeral emotion or a flacid wish, hope may be conceptualized as a purposefully chosen narrative lens through which past events are positively and appreciatively interpretted in current context realities. In this way, workplace experience stories help organization members embrace and engage with the future as it can be, not just as the current trajectory makes it appear that it will be. If this is true, how do we as leadership and organization scholars assist organizations in recognizing, releasing, and building around hope’s catalytic and transformative capacity? That is the focus of my research.

In terms of method, I have turned to narrative inquiry. I use research participant workplace hope experience stories as a primary source of data, further supported by participant biographical and observational comments. Using Snyder et. al.’s (1991) hope theory, experiential story structures are analyzed and indicator’s of hope’s emergence and or influence are highlighted. Then I incorporate Gilligan’s ((1982, 1993) voice centric concepts to help identify in the experiential stories the convergence point where self-voices of despair, resignation, and avoidance are replaced with voices of hope recognizing possibilities in opportunities.

Narrative inquiry encourages a dialogue between researcher and the data. Through these mental and written conversations, patterns of understanding are made visible. These hope expression patterns and themes are shared with research participants. They begin to see how hope’s catalytic and transformative capacities can be understood and used as levers for positive individual change and appreciative organization member relationships. In follow-up sessions, I often learn that participants have gone on to share their experiences and new understandings with others, in patterns of geometrically expanding connections, until hope becomes the dominant core organizational conversation element. My suspicion is that this is making possible increased organization vitality, human health compatability, and overall organization success.

I would be happy to share more on my workplace hope research and/or the methods employed if there is any interest. Comments and observations are always welcome.

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