Panel 18 | Discourses of organisational socialisation: Old hat or a new normal?

CADAAD2022 | 06-08/07/2022 | Bergamo, Italy

105 | Mia Rasmussen

‘Onboarding’ as an interpretative repertoire

This paper takes a discursive approach to scholarly discussions about onboarding, as well as to how onboarding is conceptualised in organisational practice. Specifically, the paper draws on the notion of interpretative repertoires (developed as part of Potter & Wetherell’s (1987) discursive psychology perspective) to address the question “What are the potential framing effects of onboarding discourse in research and practice?”.

First, discussions of definitions of onboarding and differences between organisational socialisation and onboarding (Klein & Polin, 2012; Rasmussen, 2019) are used to illustrate the potential for the current discourse of onboarding to have monologilising effects (see Bakhtin, 1984), e.g., as it fails to include co-construction between organisational agents and newcomers and seems to refer to a controlled process (Benzinger, 2016; Klein & Polin, 2012).

The paper then relies on media and research discussions of new work practices related to Covid-19 as well as interviews with newcomers and HR managers in start-ups and mature businesses, to illustrate the clash between the discourse(s) of new flexible working practices and the idea of streamlined organisation-led onboarding in the monologilising onboarding discourse, making relevant a discussion of whether there really is a ‘new normal’ as regards this aspect of working life.


Bakhtin, M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics (C. Emerson, Trans., Ed.). Vol. 8. Theory and history of literature. University of Minnesota Press.

Benzinger, D. (2016). Organizational socialization tactics and newcomer information seeking in the contingent workforce. Personnel Review, 45(4), 743-763.

Klein, H. J., & Polin, B. (2012). Are organizations on board with best practices onboarding? In C.R. Wanberg (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of organizational socialization (pp. 267-287). Oxford University Press.

Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour. Sage.

Rasmussen, M. T. (2019). ‘Welcome aboard’ – Theoretical and empirical advancements in understanding dynamics of organisational socialisation in start-ups and the role of knowledge communication [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Aarhus University.

165 | Peter Kastberg & Marianne Grove Ditlevsen

Let’s talk about how employees are talked about – a critical examination of the discursive construction of the employee in the textbooks that shape the HR managers of tomorrow

Whereas organizational socialization theory almost unanimously calls for ‘mutuality’ between newcomer and organization in the induction process (e.g., Griffin et al., 2000), our analysis of practice (Kastberg & Ditlevsen, forthcoming) demonstrates that newcomers are ‘molded’ to ‘fit’ the organization (e.g., Maanen, 1978), – not the other way round. There is, as it were, a discrepancy between a more post-modern perspective that theory calls for and a more functionalistic organizational practice regarding socialization processes. We presume that this discrepancy may, in part, stem from the textbooks that are formative in shaping the field and the managers who inhabit it (cf. DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). Based on critical analyses of select sections of standard HRM textbooks, we give a presentation of how the employees are discursively constructed in textbooks used in management educational programs. We do so in order to establish an empirical foundation for discussing to what extent we may say that this discrepancy can be traced back to business school textbooks. In doing so, our paper also contributes to the wider discussion of current tensions between a post-modern and a more functionalistic perspective on organizational life (e.g., Mumby, 2014).


Griffin, A. E. C., Colella, A., & Goparaju, S. (2000). Newcomer and organizational socialization tactics: an interactionist perspective. Human Ressource Management Review, 10(4), 453-474.

DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomophism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Psychological Review, 48(2), 147-160.

Kastberg, P., & Ditlevsen, M.G. (forthcoming). The discursive construction of newcomers – a critical examination of the onboarding programme of a global pharmaceutical company. In Darics, E. (ed.). Language awareness in professional practice. Cambridge University Press Syndicate.

Mumby, D. (2014). Critical theory and postmodernism. In L. Putnam, & D. Mumby (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizaitonal communication – advances in theory, research, and methods 3rd edition (pp. 101-125). Sage.

Maanen, J. V. (1978). People processing: Strategies of organizational socialization. Organizational Dynamics, 7, 18-36.

179 | Lise-Lotte Holmgreen

Narrating organisational identity: Staff positions in a fast-growing Danish airport

Organisational identity may be understood as the result of communication processes, e.g. in the form of narratives and stories, that continuously intertwine and compete for the right to define the organisation (Boje, 1995; Humle & Frandsen, 2017). This understanding forms the background of the paper, which asks how the construction of organisational identity takes place in actual organisations. To answer this, the paper analyses the narrative struggles in a local Danish airport whose collective identity was challenged following organisational changes. Combining positioning theory (Davies & Harré, 1990, 1999) with close linguistic analysis, data from a staff focus group interview are analysed, showing that through stories and narratives, top-management and staff members construct several positions along a cline that, on the one hand, lead to struggles over the right to define the organisational master narrative and, on the other, make it possible to achieve consensus across organisational levels and divisions. Furthermore, the paper argues for analysing participants’ linguistic choices in detail to come closer to how participants do positioning work.


Boje, D. (1995). Stories of the storytelling organization: A postmodern analysis of Disney as “Tamara-land”. Academy of Management Journal, 38(4), 997-1035.

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive construction of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1), 43-63.

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré, & L. Van Langenhove (Eds.), Positioning theory (pp. 32-52). Wiley-Blackwell.

Humle, D. M., & Frandsen, S. (2017). Organizational identity negotiations through dominant and counter-narratives. In S. Frandsen, T. Kuhn, & M. W. Lundholt (Eds.), Counter-narratives and organization (pp. 105-128). Routledge.