Grounded Anecdotal Evidence: Understanding Organizational Reality Through Archetypes in Organizational Humorous Tales

The traditional academic narrative in social sciences apes the research models of the sciences. It relies on formulating and testing hypotheses, preferably by quantitative measures. Even though qualitative methods have gained some recognition (in particular it is true of grounded theory, which offers the quantitative researchers a sense of familiarity, through structures, coding, and semi-quantitative analysis possibilities), they still usually are expected to relate to “reality” and describe “facts” rather than fiction. Researchers are encouraged to weed out gossip, hearsay, and organizational anecdotes from their “true” findings. In spite of the widely accepted sense-made nature of organizational life (Weick, 1969), scholars are still coerced to try to reach quasi-physical history and facts. Some researchers (Corvellec, 1997, 2006; Czarniawska-Joerges, 1998; Czarniawska-Joerges & Guillet de Monthoux, 1994; Czarniawska, 2000; Hatch, Kostera, & Kozminski, 2005) show how studies of fiction can be usefully incorporated into organizational research. Yet, they focus on literature and other published narrations of organizational conceptions. In our paper we suggest a new focus in qualitative organization studies, which we call anectodal evidence. Just as the name suggest, we propose that organizational anecdotes, jokes, and short fictional stories should become the main object of management culture analysis, rather than be refuted as unimportant. We believe that the study of organizational anectodes and fictional stories shared by the social actors is actually more meaningful and gives more insight into their culture than establishing mere facts. “What really happened” is often incidental, while the stories, which prevail, carry true meanings.