Methodological and emotional challenges of studying traumatic experiences

Miralles, Megane and Stierand, Marc Benjamin and Lee, Bill and Dörfler, Viktor (2020) Methodological and emotional challenges of studying traumatic experiences. In: BAM 2020: 34th Annual Conference of the British Academy of Management, 2020-09-02 - 2020-09-04, Cloud.

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    Over recent decades, there have been many reported cases of crisis, involving violent crimes, natural disasters, or terrorism. Such extreme events expose salient and self-evident human emotions and make them easier to investigate (Stierand, 2016, Dörfler and Stierand, 2019, Dörfler and Stierand, 2009) for it is people’s lifeworld (Lebenswelt) that ties their consciousness to the objects of experience (Moran, 2000, Ihde, 1986, Husserl, 1970). Hällgren et al. (2018) have conducted a large-scale review of 138 articles in Management and Organization Studies (MOS) on extreme contexts spanning the period from 1980 to 2015. They found that when an organization is undergoing an extreme event, this either happens in an emergency context, if the event results from core activities gone wrong, like BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or in a disrupted context if the event has nothing to do with the core business of the organization, for example, the shooting in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris (Hällgren et al., 2018). An important difference between these two types of extreme contexts is the possibility of preparedness; while in emergency contexts, an organization is likely to be prepared for the majority of events, it is improbable in disrupted contexts where the events usually catch the organization off guard (Hällgren et al., 2018). It is clear from the above that emergency and disrupted contexts can lead to trauma when they overwhelm people's coping mechanisms (see Van der Kolk, 1998, Young, 1995). In this paper, we introduce a vignette that describes a disrupted context in which the events caused traumatic experiences. The vignette was composed by the first-named author based on a Doctors without Borders’ (MSF) archival report. This vignette offers an immediate and intuitive understanding of traumatic experiences of MSF employees but also of the phenomenal complexity, both methodologically and emotionally, that MOS researchers are facing when studying traumatic experiences caused by extreme events.

    ORCID iDs

    Miralles, Megane, Stierand, Marc Benjamin, Lee, Bill and Dörfler, Viktor ORCID logoORCID:;