Biographical Research in the Context of Organizational Research: How Biographical Experiences and Narrations Interrelate with the Organization.

Monday, 16 July 2018
Miriam SCHAEFER, Georg-August-University Goettingen, Germany
Marita HAAS, Vienna Technical University, Austria
People are involved in organizations in diverse ways and in different phases of life. These are public institutions of socialization, such as schools, professional organizations in the economic, academic or public sectors, but also organizations of religious groups or associations for leisure activities. Individual trajectories, in this context, underlay the social and institutional setting of organizations.

Vice versa, individual biographies influence organizations in various ways: People enter organizations with a specific biographical background: their specific history related to their individual – biographical and professional – experiences. We argue that organizational members interact with each other related to their specific biographical background and the experiences they made in the course of their life. Only through the course of a biography, are we able to understand what led to the evolvement of attitudes and opinions that organizational members use in their daily interaction with others. We thus state that organizational members co-construct organizational decisions on the basis of their biographical experiences. On the other hand, (career) trajectories are subject to social and institutional settings and co-constructed through existing structures, processes and master narratives of organizations.

The police is an example of a strongly hierarchical organization. Careers in the police follow an established path, and yet are very different. Careers in academia, are as well structured but subject to informal networks and personal mentoring with senior supervisors.

On the basis of these two different research fields, we will discuss how biographical experiences can widen and/or limit occupational careers in hierarchically structured settings, and how experiences in the police or in academia structure biographies. We will further show that being part of a certain professional field and organization does not influence biographies in a one-sided way, but that certain biographical opportunities can only be realized within a setting that fits to the biographical structure.