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Making sense of internal social media and participatory communication: exploring the employee perspective in a change process in a public sector organization

Vibeke Thøis Madsen (Department of Communication and Management, DMJX, Danish School of Media and Journalism, Aarhus, Denmark)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 16 November 2022

Issue publication date: 28 November 2022

139

Abstract

Purpose

This article explores how employees in a public sector organization (PSO) make sense of the introduction of a social intranet and new employee communication roles. The aim is to understand employee sensemaking and how sensemaking influences the change process within the organization.

Design/methodology/approach

The article is based on a case study in a Danish PSO with 30,000 employees. The empirical material includes strategic documents, online observations and seven focus groups with employees conducted before, during and after the introduction of a new social intranet.

Findings

The employees found that making sense of the purpose with the social intranet is difficult. A managerial approach to change communication could easily result in employees' frustrations and concerns being dismissed as signs of resistance to change. From a communication perspective, the findings reveal that the employees engaged in seven different sensemaking enactments.

Research limitations/implications

Change cannot be understood simply as something that employees are for or against. Instead, a change process should be perceived as a set of communication processes or sensemaking enactments happening in interactions between employees that can act in favor of, against or neutrally toward change.

Practical implications

Managers and communication professionals can interact with the seven sensemaking enactments, and some tentative initiatives are suggested in the article.

Originality/value

The article explores the employee perspective in a change process in a PSO and identifies seven employee sensemaking enactments highlighting that change happens in communication processes.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges Line Schmeltz, from DMJX, Danish School of Media and Journalism, Aarhus, Denmark, who helped collect the empirical material for the article.

Citation

Madsen, V.T. (2022), "Making sense of internal social media and participatory communication: exploring the employee perspective in a change process in a public sector organization", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 420-435. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-01-2022-0002

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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