On the Narrative Construction of Multinational Corporations: An Antenarrative Analysis of Legitimation and Resistance in a Cross-Border Merger
Although extant research has highlighted the role of discourse in the cultural construction of organizations, there is a need to elucidate the use of narratives as central discursive resources in unfolding organizational change. Hence, the objective of this article is to develop a new kind of antenarrative approach for the cultural analysis of organizational change. We use merging multinational corporations (MNCs) as a case in point. Our empirical analysis focuses on a revelatory case: the financial services group Nordea, which was built by combining Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian corporations. We distinguish three types of antenarrative that provided alternatives for making sense of the merger: globalist, nationalist, and regionalist (Nordic) antenarratives. We focus on how these antenarratives were mobilized in intentional organizational storytelling to legitimate or resist change: globalist storytelling as a means to legitimate the merger and to create MNC identity, nationalist storytelling to relegitimate national identities and interests, Nordic storytelling to create regional identity, and the critical use of the globalist storytelling to challenge the Nordic identity. We conclude that organizational storytelling is characterized by polyphonic, stylistic, chronotopic, and architectonic dialogisms and by a dynamic between centering and decentering forces. This paper contributes to discourse-cultural studies of organizations by explaining how narrative constructions of identities and interests are used to legitimate or resist change. Furthermore, this analysis elucidates the dialogical dynamics of organizational storytelling and thereby opens up new avenues for the cultural analysis of organizations.