Redefining organizational practice through narratives : Unraveling the Eskom backstage


Petra Pelkman and Marcel Veenswijk

This article is focused on discursive responses which emerge in the backstage of a large scale South-African Energy company as result of the governmental planned change program of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). It is argued that most of the current literature on BEE deals with issues regarding the ’frontstage’ rationale in terms of economic and policy impacts as well as structural implications. By analyzing specific cultural practices, especially narratives which emerge in the various sub-domains of the organization, it was aimed to contribute to the further development of BEE related theories. Three alternative types of coping responses to the dominant BEE narrative of ‘liberation’ were identified: (1) a narrative of ‘threat’ (2) a narrative of ‘co -creation’ and (3) a narrative of ‘corrosion’. While threat deals with emotions of ‘exit’ and felt injustice, co-creation and corrosion are manifestations of organizational ‘voice’ and attempts to deal with internal tensions and ambiguities of the BEE program. The research illustrated that backstage dynamics in (BEE) change programs not only provide an important platform for narrative production, but also for modification and meaning destruction.

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